by Nathaniel Hawthorne
"Wilt thou go on with me?"
Our court shall be a little academy.
In an ancient, though not very populous settlement, in a retired
corner of one of the New-England States, arise the walls of a seminary
of learning, which, for the con- venience of a name, shall be entitled
`Harley College,' This institution, though the number of its years is
incon- siderable, compared with the hoar antiquity of its Euro- pean
sisters, is not without some claims to reverence on the score of age;
for an almost countless multitude of rivals, by many of which its
reputation has been eclipsed, have sprung up since its foundation. At
no time, in- deed, during an existence of nearly a century, has it ac-
quired a very extensive fame, and circumstances, which need not be
particularized, have of late years involved it in a deeper obscurity.
There are now few candidates for the degrees that the college is
authorized to bestow. On two of its annual `Commencement days,' there
has been a total deficiency of Baccalaureates; and the law- yers and
divines, on whom Doctorates in their respective professions are
gratuitously inflicted, are not accustomed to consider the distinction
as an honor. Yet the sons of this seminary have always maintained
their full share of reputation, in whatever paths of life they trod.
Few of them, perhaps, have been deep and finished scholars; but the
College has supplied -- what the emergencies of the country demanded
-- a set of men more useful in its present state, and whose deficiency
in theoretical knowl- edge has not been found to imply a want of
The local situation of the College, so far secluded from the sight
and sound of the busy world, is peculiarly favora- ble to the moral,
if not to the literary habits of its stu- dents; and this advantage
probably caused the founders to overlook the inconveniences that were
inseparably connected with it. The humble edifices rear themselves
almost at the farthest extremity of a narrow vale, which, winding
through a long extent of hill-country, is well nigh as inaccessible,
except at one point, as the Happy Val- ley of Abyssinia. A stream,
that farther on becomes a considerable river, takes its rise at a
short distance above the College, and affords, along its wood-fringed
banks, many shady retreats, where even study is pleasant, and
idleness delicious. The neighborhood of the institution is not quite
a solitude, though the few habitations scarce- ly constitute a
village. These consist principally of farm- houses, -- of rather an
ancient date, for the settlement is much older than the college, --
and of a little inn, which, even in that secluded spot, does not fail
of a moderate support. Other dwellings are scattered up and down the
valley; but the difficulties of the soil will long avert the evils of
a too dense population. The character of the in- habitants does not
seem -- as there was perhaps room to anticipate -- to be in any degree
influenced by the atmosphere of Harley College. They are a set of rough
and hardy yeomen, much inferior, as respects refinement, to the
corresponding classes in most other parts of our coun- try. This is
the more remarkable, as there is scarcely a family in the vicinity
that has not provided, for at least one of its sons, the advantages of
a `liberal education.'
Having thus described the present state of Harley College, we must
proceed to speak of it as it existed about eighty years since, when
its foundation was recent and its prospects flattering. At the head of
the institu- tion, at this period, was a learned and orthodox Divine,
whose fame was in all the churches. He was the author of several
works which evinced much erudition and depth of research; and the
public perhaps thought the more highly of his abilities from a
singularity in the pur- poses to which he applied them, that added
much to the curiosity of his labors, though little to their
usefulness. But however fanciful might be his private pursuits, Doc-
tor Melmoth, it was universally allowed, was diligent and successful
in the arts of instruction. The young men of his charge prospered
beneath his eye, and regarded him with an affection, that was
strengthened by the little foi- bles which occasionally excited their
ridicule. The presi- dent was assisted in the discharge of his duties
by two inferior officers, chosen from the Alumni of the college, who,
while they imparted to others the knowledge they had already imbibed,
pursued the study of Divinity under the direction of their principal.
Under such auspices the institution grew and flourished. Having at
that time but two rivals in the country (neither of them within a
consid- erable distance) it became the general resort of the youth of
the province in which it was situated. For several years in
succession, its students amounted to nearly fifty, -- a number which,
relatively to the circumstances of the country, was very considerable.
From the exterior of the Collegians, an accurate ob- server might
pretty safely judge how long they had been inmates of those classic
walls. The brown cheeks and the rustic dress of some would inform him
that they had but recently left the plough, to labor in a not less
toil- some field. The grave look and the intermingling of garments of
a more classic cut, would distinguish those who had begun to acquire
the polish of their new resi- dence; -- and the air of superiority,
the paler cheek, the less robust form, the spectacles of green, and
the dress in general of threadbare black, would designate the high-
est class, who were understood to have acquired nearly all the
science their Alma Mater could bestow, and to be on the point of
assuming their stations in the world. There were, it is true,
exceptions to this general description. A few young men had found
their way hither from the distant sea-ports; and these were the models
of fashion to their rustic companions, over whom they asserted a
superiority in exterior accomplishments, which the fresh though
unpolished intellect of the sons of the forest denied them in their
literary competitions. A third class, dif- fering widely from both the
former, consisted of a few young descendants of the aborigines, to
whom an imprac- ticable philanthropy was endeavoring to impart the
ben- efits of civilization.
If this institution did not offer all the advantages of el- der
and prouder seminaries, its deficiencies were com- pensated to its
students by the inculcation of regular hab- its, and of a deep and
awful sense of religion, which sel- dom deserted them in their course
through life. The mild and gentle rule of Doctor Melmoth, like that of
a father over his children, was more destructive to vice than a
sterner sway; and though youth is never without its follies, they have
seldom been more harmless than they were here. The students, indeed,
ignorant of their own bliss, sometimes wished to hasten the time of
their entrance on the business of life; but they found, in after
years, that many of their happiest remembrances, -- many of the
scenes which they would with least reluctance live over again, --
referred to the seat of their early studies. The exceptions to this
remark were chiefly those whose vices had drawn down, even from that
paternal govern- ment, a weighty retribution.
Doctor Melmoth, at the time when he is to be intro- duced to the
reader, had borne the matrimonial yoke (and in his case it was no
light burthen) nearly twenty years. The blessing of children, however,
had been de- nied him, -- a circumstance which he was accustomed to
consider as one of the sorest trials that chequered his path way; for
he was a man of a kind and affectionate heart, that was continually
seeking objects to rest itself upon. He was inclined to believe, also,
that a common offspring would have exerted a meliorating influence on
the temper of Mrs. Melmoth, the character of whose domestic government
often compelled him to call to mind such portions of the wisdom of
antiquity, as relate to the proper endurance of the shrewishness of
woman. But domestic comforts, as well as comforts of every other
kind, have their draw-backs; and so long as the balance is on the
side of happiness, a wise man will not murmur. Such was the opinion of
Doctor Melmoth; and with a lit- tle aid from philosophy and more from
religion, he jour- neyed on contentedly through life. When the storm
was loud by the parlor hearth, he had always a sure and quiet retreat
in his study, and there, in his deep though not always useful labors,
he soon forgot whatever of disagreeable nature pertained to his
situation. This small and dark apartment was the only portion of the
house, to which, since one firmly repelled invasion, Mrs. Melmoth's
omnipotence did not extend. Here (to reverse the words of Queen
Elizabeth) there was `but one Master and no Mistress'; and that man
has little right to complain who possesses so much as one corner in
the world, where he may be happy or miserable, as best suits him. In
his study, then, the Doctor was accustomed to spend most of the hours
that were unoccupied by the duties of his station. The flight of time
was here as swift as the wind, and noiseless as the snow-flake; and it
was a sure proof of real happiness, that night often came upon the
student, before he knew it was mid-day.
Doctor Melmoth was wearing towards age, having liv- ed nearly
sixty years, when he was called upon to as- sume a character, to which
he had as yet been a stranger. He had possessed, in his youth, a very
dear friend, with whom his education had associated him, and who, in
his early manhood, had been his chief intimate. Circumstan- ces,
however, had separated them for nearly thirty years, half of which had
been spent by his friend, who was en- gaged in mercantile pursuits, in
a foreign country. The Doctor had nevertheless retained a warm
interest in the welfare of his old associate, though the different
nature of their thoughts and occupations had prevented them from
corresponding. After a silence of so long continu- ance, therefore, he
was surprised by the receipt of a let- ter from his friend, containing
a request of a most unex- pected nature.
Mr. Langton had married rather late in life, and his wedded bliss
had been but of short continuance. Cer- tain misfortunes in trade,
when he was a Benedict of three years standing, had deprived him of a
large portion of his property, and compelled him, in order to save the
remainder, to leave his own country for what he hoped would be but a
brief residence in another. But though he was successful in the
immediate objects of his voyage, cir- cumstances occurred to lengthen
his stay far beyond the period which he had assigned to it. It was
difficult so to arrange his extensive concerns, that they could be
safely trusted to the management of others; and when this was
effected, there was another not less powerful obstacle to his return.
His affairs, under his own inspection, were so prosperous, and his
gains so considerable, that, in the words of the old ballad, `He set
his heart to gather gold,' and to this absorbing passion he sacrificed
his domestic happiness. The death of his wife, about four years after
his departure, undoubtedly contributed to give him a sort of dread of
returning, which it required a strong effort to overcome. The welfare
of his only child he knew would be little affected by this event; for
she was under the protection of his sister, of whose ten- derness he
was well assured. But, after a few more years, this sister, also, was
taken away by death; and then the father felt that duty imperatively
called upon him to return. He realized, on a sudden, how much of life
he had thrown away in the acquisition of what is on- ly valuable as it
contributes to the happiness of life, and how short a time was left
him for life's true enjoyments. Still, however, his mercantile habits
were too deeply seated to allow him to hazard his present prosperity
by any hasty measures; nor was Mr. Langton, though capa- ble of
strong affections, naturally liable to manifest them violently. It was
probable, therefore, that many months might yet elapse, before he
would again tread the shores of his native country. But the distant
relative, in whose family, since the death of her aunt, Ellen Langton
had remained, had been long at variance with her father, and had
unwillingly as- sumed the office of her protector. Mr. Langton's re-
quest, therefore, to Doctor Melmoth, was, that his ancient friend
(one of the few friends that time had left him) would be as a father
to his daughter, till he could himself relieve him of the charge.
The Doctor, after perusing the epistle of his friend, lost no time
in laying it before Mrs. Melmoth, though this was, in truth, one of
the very few occasions on which he had determined that his will should
be absolute law. The lady was quick to perceive the firmness of his
pur- pose; and would not (even had she been particularly averse to
the proposed measure) hazard her usual author- ity by a fruitless
opposition. But, by long disuse, she had lost the power of consenting
graciously to any wish of her husband's.
`I see your heart is set upon this matter,' she observ- ed; `and,
in truth, I fear we cannot decently refuse Mr. Langton's request. I
see little good of such a friend, Doctor, who never lets one know he
is alive, till he has a favor to ask.'
`Nay, but I have received much good at his hand,' re- plied Doctor
Melmoth; `and if he asked more of me, it should be done with a willing
heart. I remember in my youth, when my worldly goods were few and
ill-managed (I was a bachelor, then, dearest Sarah, with none to look
after my household) how many times I have been behold- en to him. And
see, -- in his letter he speaks of presents, of the produce of the
country, which he has sent both to you and me.'
`If the girl were country-bred,' continued the lady, `we might
give her house-room, and no harm done. Nay, she might even be a help
to me; for Esther, our maid-servant, leaves us at the month's end. But
I war- rant she knows as little of household matters as you do
`My friend's sister was well grounded in the `re famil- iari,"
answered her husband; `and doubtless she hath imparted somewhat of her
skill to this damsel. Besides, the child is of tender years, and will
profit much by your instruction and mine.'
`The child is eighteen years of age, Doctor,' observed Mrs.
Melmoth, `and she has cause to be thankful that she will have better
instruction than yours.'
This was a proposition that Doctor Melmoth did not choose to
dispute; though he perhaps thought, that his long and successful
experience in the education of the other sex might make him an able
coadjutor to his wife, in the care of Ellen Langton. He determined to
journey in person to the seaport, where his young charge resided,
leaving the concerns of Harley College to the direction of the two
tutors. Mrs. Melmoth, who indeed anticipated with pleasure the arrival
of a new subject to her authori- ty, threw no difficulties in the way
of his intention. To do her justice, her preparations for his journey,
and the minute instructions with which she favored him, were such as
only a woman's true affection could have suggest- ed. The traveller
met with no incidents important to this tale; and, after an absence of
about a fortnight, he and Ellen Langton alighted from their steeds
(for on horseback had the journey been performed) in safety at his
If pen could give an adequate idea of Ellen Lang- ton's
loveliness, it would achieve what pencil (the pencils at least of the
Colonial artists who attempted it) never could; for though the dark
eyes might be painted, the pure and pleasant thoughts that peeped
through them could only be seen and felt. But descriptions of beauty
are never satisfactory. It must therefore be left to the imagination
of the reader to conceive of something not more than mortal -- nor,
indeed, quite the perfection of mortality, -- but charming men the
more, because they felt, that, lovely as she was, she was of like
nature to themselves.
From the time that Ellen entered Doctor Melmoth's habitation, the
sunny days seemed brighter and the cloudy ones less gloomy, than he
had ever before known them. He naturally delighted in children; and
Ellen, though her years approached to womanhood, had yet much of the
gaiety and simple happiness, because the innocence, of a child. She
consequently became the very blessing of his life, -- the rich
recreation that he promised himself for hours of literary toil. On one
occasion, indeed, he even made her his companion in the sacred retreat
of his study, with the purpose of entering upon a course of
instruction in the learned languages. This measure, however, he found
inexpedient to repeat; for Ellen, hav- ing discovered an old romance
among his heavy folios, contrived, by the charm of her sweet voice, to
engage his attention therein, till all more important concerns were
With Mrs. Melmoth, Ellen was not, of course, so great a favorite
as with her husband; for women cannot, so readily as men, bestow upon
the offspring of others those affections that nature intended for
their own; and the Doctor's extraordinary partiality was anything
rather than a pledge of his wife's. But Ellen differed so far from
the idea she had previously formed of her, as a daughter of one of
the principal merchants, who were then, as now, like nobles in the
land, that the stock of dislike which Mrs. Melmoth had provided, was
found to be totally inap- plicable. The young stranger strove so hard,
too, (and undoubtedly it was a pleasant labor) to win her love, that
she was successful, to a degree of which the lady herself was not
perhaps aware. It was soon seen that her edu- cation had not been
neglected in those points which Mrs. Melmoth deemed most important.
The nicer depart- ments of cookery, after sufficient proof of her
skill, were committed to her care; and the Doctor's table was now
covered with delicacies, simple indeed, but as tempting on account of
their intrinsic excellence as of the small white hands that made them.
By such arts as these -- which in her were no arts, but the dictates
of an affec- tionate disposition -- by making herself useful where it
was possible, and agreeable on all occasions, Ellen gain- ed the love
of every one within the sphere of her influ- ence.
But the maiden's conquests were not confined to the members of
Doctor Melmoth's family. She had numer- ous admirers among those,
whose situation compelled them to stand afar off and gaze upon her
loveliness; as if she were a star, whose brightness they saw, but
whose warmth they could not feel. These were the young men of Harley
College, whose chief opportunities of behold- ing Ellen were upon the
Sabbaths, when she worshipped with them in the little chapel, which
served the purposes of a church to all the families of the vicinity.
There was, about this period, (and the fact was undoubtedly at-
tributable to Ellen's influence) a general and very evi- dent decline
in the scholarship of the college, -- especial- ly in regard to the
severer studies. The intellectual powers of the young men seemed to be
directed chiefly to the construction of Latin and Greek verse, many
co- pies of which, with a characteristic and classic gallantry, were
strewn in the path where Ellen Langton was ac- customed to walk. They
however produced no percepti- ble effect; nor were the aspirations of
another ambitious youth, who celebrated her perfections in Hebrew,
attend- ed with their merited success.
But there was one young man, to whom circumstances, independent of
his personal advantages, afforded a supe- rior opportunity of gaining
Ellen's favor. He was near- ly related to Doctor Melmoth, on which
account he re- ceived his education at Harley College, rather than at
one of the English Universities, to the expenses of which his fortune
would have been adequate. This connexion entitled him to a frequent
and familiar access to the do- mestic hearth of the dignitary, -- an
advantage of which, since Ellen Langton became a member of the family,
he very constantly availed himself.
Edward Walcott was certainly much superior, in most of the
particulars of which a lady takes cognizance, to those of his fellow
students who had come under Ellen's notice. He was tall, and the
natural grace of his man- ners had been improved (an advantage which
few of his associates could boast) by early intercourse with pol-
ished society. His features, also, were handsome, and promised to be
manly and dignified, when they should cease to be youthful. His
character as a scholar was more than respectable, though many youthful
follies, sometimes perhaps approaching near to vices, were laid to
his charge. But his occasional derelictions from dis- cipline were not
such as to create any very serious appre- hensions respecting his
future welfare; nor were they greater than perhaps might be expected
from a young man who possessed a considerable command of money, and
who was, besides, the fine gentleman of the little community of which
he was a member, -- a character, which generally leads its possessor
into follies that he would otherwise have avoided.
With this youth Ellen Langton became familiar, and even intimate;
for he was her only companion, of an age suited to her own, and the
difference of sex did not occur to her as an objection. He was her
constant com- panion, on all necessary and allowable occasions, and
drew upon himself, in consequence, the envy of the col- lege.
Why, all delights are vain, but that most vain,
Which, with pain purchased, doth inherit pain;
As painfully to pore upon a book,
To seek the light of truth, while truth the while
Doth falsely blind the eye-sight of his look. Shakspeare.
On one of the afternoons which afforded to the students a
relaxation from their usual labors, Ellen was attended by her cavalier
in a little excursion over the rough bri- dle roads that led from her
new residence. She was an experienced equestrian, -- a necessary
accomplishment at that period, when vehicles of every kind were rare.
It was now the latter end of spring; but the season had hith- erto
been backward, with only a few warm and pleasant days. The present
afternoon, however, was a delicious mingling of Spring and Summer,
forming, in their union, an atmosphere so mild and pure, that to
breathe was al- most a positive happiness. There was a little alterna-
tion of cloud across the brow of Heaven, but only so much as to
render the sunshine more delightful.
The path of the young travellers lay sometimes among tall and
thick standing trees, and sometimes over naked and desolate hills,
whence man had taken the natural vegetation, and then left the soil to
its barrenness. In- deed, there is little inducement to a cultivator
to labor among the huge stones, which there peep forth from the
earth, seeming to form a continued ledge for several miles. A
singular contrast to this unfavored tract of country is seen in the
narrow but luxuriant, though some- times swampy, strip of interval, on
both sides of the stream, that, as has been noticed, flows down the
valley. The light and buoyant spirits of Edward Walcott and El- len
rose higher as they rode on, and their way was en- livened, wherever
its roughness did not forbid, by their conversation and pleasant
laughter. But at length Ellen drew her bridle, as they emerged from a
thick portion of the forest, just at the foot of a steep hill.
`We must have ridden far,' she observed, -- `farther than I
thought. It will be near sunset before we can reach home.'
`There are still several hours of daylight,' replied Edward
Walcott, `and we will not turn back without as- cending this hill. The
prospect from the summit is beau- tiful, and will be particularly so
now, in this rich sun- light. Come Ellen, -- one light touch of the
whip: -- your pony is as fresh as when we started.'
On reaching the summit of the hill, and looking back in the
direction in which they had come, they could see the little stream,
peeping forth many times to the day- light, and then shrinking back
into the shade. Farther on, it became broad and deep, though rendered
incapable of navigation, in this part of its course, by the occa-
sional interruption of rapids.
`There are hidden wonders, of rock, and precipice, and cave, in
that dark forest,' said Edward, pointing to the space between them and
the river. `If it were ear- lier in the day, I should love to lead you
there. Shall we try the adventure now, Ellen?'
`Oh, no!' she replied; `let us delay no longer. I fear I must even
now abide a rebuke from Mrs. Melmoth, which I have surely deserved.
But who is this, who rides on so slowly before us?'
She pointed to a horseman, whom they had not before observed. He
was descending the hill; but, as his steed seemed to have chosen his
own pace, he made a very in- considerable progress.
`Oh! do you not know him? -- But it is scarcely possi- ble you
should,' exclaimed her companion. `We must do him the good office,
Ellen, of stopping his progress, or he will find himself at the
village, a dozen miles farther on, before he resumes his
`Has he then lost his senses?' inquired Miss Langton.
`Not so, Ellen, -- if much learning has not made him mad,' replied
Edward Walcott. `He is a deep scholar and a noble fellow, but I fear
we shall follow him to his grave, ere long. Doctor Melmoth has sent
him to ride in pursuit of his health. He will never overtake it, how-
ever, at this pace.'
As he spoke, they had approached close to the subject of their
conversation, and Ellen had a moment's space for observation, before
he started from the abstraction, in which he was plunged. The result
of her scrutiny was favorable, yet very painful.
The stranger could scarcely have attained his twenti- eth year,
and was possessed of a face and form, such as Nature bestows on none
but her favorites. There was a nobleness on his high forehead, which
time would have deepened into majesty; and all his features were
formed with a strength and boldness, of which the paleness, pro-
duced by study and confinement, could not deprive them. The
expression of his countenance was not a melancholy one; -- on the
contrary, it was proud and high -- perhaps triumphant -- like one who
was a ruler in a world of his own, and independent of the beings that
surrounded him. But a blight, of which his thin, pale cheek and the
bright- ness of his eye were alike proofs, seemed to have come over
him ere his maturity.
The scholar's attention was now aroused by the hoof- tramps at his
side, and starting, he fixed his eyes on El- len, whose young and
lovely countenance was full of the interest he had excited. A deep
blush immediately suf- fused his cheek, proving how well the glow of
health would have become it. There was nothing awkward, however, in
his manner; and soon recovering his self- possession, he bowed to her
and would have rode on.
`Your ride is unusually long, to-day, Fanshawe,' ob- served Edward
Walcott. `When may we look for your return?'
The young man again blushed, but answered, with a smile that had a
beautiful effect upon his countenance, `I was not, at the moment,
aware in which direction my horse's head was turned. I have to thank
you for ar- resting me in a journey, which was likely to prove much
longer than I intended.'
The party had now turned their horses, and were about to resume
their ride, in a homeward direction; but Ed- ward perceived that
Fanshawe, having lost the excite- ment of intense thought, now looked
weary and dispirited.
`Here is a cottage close at hand,' he observed. `We have ridden
far, and stand in need of refreshment. Ellen, shall we alight?'
She saw the benevolent motive of his proposal, and did not
hesitate to comply with it. But as they paused at the cottage door,
she could not but observe, that its exterior promised few of the
comforts which they required. Time and neglect seemed to have
conspired its ruin, and but for a thin curl of smoke from its clay
chimney, they could not have believed it to be inhabited. A
considerable tract of land, in the vicinity of the cottage, had
evidently been, at some former period, under cultivation, but was now
overrun by bushes and dwarf pines, among which many huge gray rocks,
ineradicable by human art, en- deavored to conceal themselves. About
half an acre of ground was occupied by the young blades of Indian
corn, at which a half-starved cow gazed wistfully, over the
mouldering log fence. These were the only agricultural tokens. Edward
Walcott nevertheless drew the latch of the cottage door, after
knocking loudly, but in vain.
The apartment, which was thus opened to their view, was quite as
wretched, as its exterior had given them rea- son to anticipate.
Poverty was there, with all its neces- sary, and unnecessary
concomitants. The intruders would have retired, had not the hope of
affording relief detained them.
The occupants of the small and squallid apartment were two women,
both of them elderly, and, from the re- semblance of their features,
appearing to be sisters. The expression of their countenances,
however, was very dif- ferent. One, evidently the younger, was seated
on the farther side of the large hearth, opposite to the door, at
which the party stood. She had the sallow look of long and wasting
illness, and there was an unsteadiness of ex- pression about her eyes,
that immediately struck the ob- server. Yet her face was mild and
gentle, therein con- trasting widely with that of her companion.
The other woman was bending over a small fire of decayed branches,
the flame of which was very dispro- portionate to the smoke, scarcely
producing heat suffi- cient for the preparation of a scanty portion of
food. Her profile, only, was visible to the strangers, though, from a
slight motion of her eye, they perceived that she was aware of their
presence. Her features were pinch- ed and spare, and wore a look of
sullen discontent, for which the evident wretchedness of her situation
afforded a sufficient reason. This female, notwithstanding her years
and the habitual fretfulness, that is more wearing than time, was
apparently healthy and robust, with a dry, leathery complexion. A
short space elapsed before she thought proper to turn her face towards
her visiters, and she then regarded them with a lowering eye, without
speaking or rising from her chair.
`We entered,' Edward Walcott began to say, `in the hope;' -- but
he paused, on perceiving that the sick woman had risen from her seat,
and with slow and tottering foot- steps was drawing near to him. She
took his hand in both her own, and, though he shuddered at the touch
of age and disease, he did not attempt to withdraw it. She then
perused all his features, with an expression at first of eager and
hopeful anxiety, which faded by degrees into disappointment. Then,
turning from him, she gazed into Fanshawe's countenance with the like
eagerness, but with the same result. Lastly, tottering back to her
chair, she hid her face, and wept bitterly. The strangers, though
they knew not the cause of her grief, were deeply affect- ed; and
Ellen approached the mourner with words of comfort, which, more from
their tone than their meaning, produced a transient effect.
`Do you bring news of him?' she inquired, raising her head. `Will
he return to me? Shall I see him before I die?' Ellen knew not what to
answer, and ere she could attempt it, the other female prevented her.
`Sister Butler is wandering in her mind,' she said, `and speaks of
one she will never behold again. The sight of strangers disturbs her,
and you see we have no- thing here to offer you.'
The manner of the woman was ungracious, but her words were true.
They saw that their presence could do nothing towards the alleviation
of the misery they witness- ed, and they felt that mere curiosity
would not authorize a longer intrusion. So soon, therefore, as they
had re- lieved, according to their power, the poverty that seemed to
be the least evil of this cottage, they emerged into the open air.
The breath of Heaven felt sweet to them, and removed a part of the
weight from their young hearts, which were saddened by the sight of so
much wretchedness. Per- ceiving a pure and bright little fountain, at
a short dis- tance from the cottage, they approached it, and using the
bark of a birch tree as a cup, partook of its cool waters. They then
pursued their homeward ride with such dili- gence, that, just as the
sun was setting, they came in sight of the humble wooden edifice,
which was dignified with the name of Harley College. A golden ray
rested upon the spire of the little chapel, the bell of which sent
its tinkling murmur down the valley, to summon the wan- derers to
Fanshawe returned to his chamber, that night, and lit his lamp as
he had been wont to do. The books were around him, which had hitherto
been to him like those fabled volumes of Magic, from which the reader
could not turn away his eye, till death were the consequence of his
studies. But there were unaccustomed thoughts in his bosom, now; and
to these, leaning his head on one of the unopened volumes, he resigned
He called up in review the years, that, even at his early age, he
had spent in solitary study, -- in conversa- tion with the dead, --
while he had scorned to mingle with the living world, or to be
actuated by any of its motives. He asked himself, to what purpose was
all this destruc- tive labor, and where was the happiness of superior
knowledge? He had climbed but a few steps of a ladder that reached to
infinity, -- he had thrown away his life in discovering, that, after a
thousand such lives, he should still know comparatively nothing. He
even looked for- ward with dread -- though once the thought had been
dear to him -- to the eternity of improvement that lay before him. It
seemed now a weary way, without a resting place, and without a
termination; and, at that moment, he would have preferred the
dreamless sleep of the brutes that perish, to man's proudest
attribute, of immortality.
Fanshawe had hitherto deemed himself unconnected with the world,
unconcerned in its feelings, and uninflu- enced by it in any of his
pursuits. In this respect he probably deceived himself. If his inmost
heart could have been laid open, there would have been discovered that
dream of undying fame, which, dream as it is, is more powerful than a
thousand realities. But at any rate, he had seemed, to others and to
himself, a solitary being, upon whom the hopes and fears of ordinary
men were in- effectual.
But now he felt the first thrilling of one of the many ties, that,
so long as we breathe the common air (and who shall say how much
longer?) unite us to our kind. The sound of a soft, sweet voice, --
the glance of a gentle eye, -- had wrought a change upon him, and, in
his ar- dent mind, a few hours had done the work of many. Al- most in
spite of himself, the new sensation was inexpres- sibly delightful.
The recollection of his ruined health, -- of his habits, so much at
variance with those of the world, -- all the difficulties that reason
suggested, -- were inadequate to check the exulting tide of hope and
And let the aspiring youth beware of love, --
Of the smooth glance, beware; for 'tis too late,
When on his heart the torrent softness pours.
Then wisdom prostrate lies, and fading fame
Dissolves in air away.
A few months passed over the heads of Ellen Langton and her
admirers, unproductive of events, that, separate- ly, were of
sufficient importance to be related. The summer was now drawing to a
close, and Doctor Mel- moth had received information that his friend's
arrange- ments were nearly completed, and that, by the next home-
bound ship, he hoped to return to his native country. The arrival of
that ship was daily expected.
During the time that had elapsed since his first meet- ing with
Ellen, there had been a change, yet not a very remarkable one, in
Fanshawe's habits. He was still the same solitary being, so far as
regarded his own sex, and he still confined himself as sedulously to
his chamber, ex- cept for one hour -- the sunset hour -- of every day.
At that period, unless prevented by the inclemency of the weather, he
was accustomed to tread a path that wound along the banks of the
stream. He had discovered that this was the most frequent scene of
Ellen's walks, and this it was that drew him thither.
Their intercourse was at first extremely slight. A bow on the one
side, a smile on the other, and a passing word from both, -- and then
the student hurried back to his sol- itude. But, in course of time,
opportunities occurred for more extended conversation; so that, at the
period with which this chapter is concerned, Fanshawe was, almost as
constantly as Edward Walcott himself, the companion of Ellen's walks.
His passion had strengthened, more than proportiona- bly to the
time that had elapsed since it was conceived; but the first glow and
excitement which attended it, had now vanished. He had reasoned calmly
with himself and rendered evident to his own mind the almost utter
hope- lessness of success. He had also made his resolution strong,
that he would not even endeavor to win Ellen's love, the result of
which, for a thousand reasons, could not be happiness. Firm in this
determination, and confi- dent of his power to adhere to it, --
feeling, also, that time and absence could not cure his own passion,
and having no desire for such a cure, -- he saw no reason for break-
ing off the intercourse that was established between El- len and
himself. It was remarkable, that, notwithstand- ing the desperate
nature of his love, that, or something connected with it, seemed to
have a beneficial effect upon his health. There was now a slight tinge
of color in his cheek, and a less consuming brightness in his eye.
Could it be that hope, unknown to himself, was yet alive in his
breast? -- that a sense of the possibility of earthly happi- ness was
redeeming him from the grave? Had the character of Ellen Langton's
mind been dif- ferent, there might perhaps have been danger to her
from an intercourse of this nature, with such a being as Fan- shawe;
for he was distinguished by many of those asper- ities around which a
woman's affection will often cling. But she was formed to walk in the
calm and quiet paths of life, and to pluck the flowers of happiness
from the way-side, where they grow. Singularity of character,
therefore, was not calculated to win her love. She un- doubtedly felt
an interest in the solitary student, and per- ceiving, with no great
exercise of vanity, that her socie- ty drew him from the destructive
intensity of his studies, she perhaps felt it a duty to exert her
influence. But it did not occur to her, that her influence had been
suffi- ciently strong to change the whole current of his thoughts and
Ellen and her two lovers (for both, though perhaps, not equally
deserved that epithet) had met, as usual, at the close of a sweet
summer day, and were standing by the side of the stream, just where it
swept into a deep pool. The current, undermining the bank, had formed
a recess which, according to Edward Walcott, afforded at that moment
a hiding place to a trout of noble size.
`Now would I give the world,' he exclaimed, with great interest,
`for a hook and line, -- a fish spear, or any pisca- torial instrument
of death! Look, Ellen, you can see the waving of his tail from beneath
`If you had the means of talking him, I should save him from your
cruelty, thus,' said Ellen, dropping a peb- ble into the water, just
over the fish. `There! he has darted down the stream. How many
pleasant caves and recesses there must be, under these banks, where he
may be happy! May there not be happiness in the life of a fish?' she
added, turning with a smile to Fanshawe. `There may,' he replied, `so
long as he lives quietly in the caves and recesses of which you speak.
Yes, there may be happiness, though such as few would envy; -- but
then the hook and line' --
`Which, there is reason to apprehend, will shortly des- troy the
happiness of our friend the trout,' interrupted Edward, pointing down
the stream. `There is an ang- ler on his way towards us, who will
`He seems to care little for the sport, to judge by the pace at
which he walks,' said Ellen.
`But he sees, now, that we are observing him, and is willing to
prove that he knows something of the art,' re- plied Edward Walcott.
`I should think him well ac- quainted with the stream; for, hastily as
he walks, he has tried every pool and ripple, where a fish usually
hides. But that point will be decided when he reaches yonder old bare
`And how is the old tree to decide the question?' in- quired
Fanshawe. `It is a species of evidence of which I have never before
`The stream has worn a hollow under its roots,' an- swered Edward,
-- `a most delicate retreat for a trout. Now, a stranger would not
discover the spot; or, if he did, the probable result of a cast would
be the loss of hook and line, -- an accident that has occurred to me
more than once. If, therefore, this angler takes a fish from thence,
it follows that he knows the stream.'
They observed the fisher, accordingly, as he kept his way up the
bank. He did not pause when he reached the old leafless oak, that
formed with its roots an obstruc- tion very common in American
streams; but throwing his line with involuntary skill, as he passed,
he not only escaped the various entanglements, but drew forth a fine
large fish. `There, Ellen, he has captivated your protegee, the
trout, -- or at least one very like him in size,' observed Edward.
`It is singular,' he added, gazing earnestly at the man.
`Why is it singular?' inquired Ellen Langton. `This person perhaps
resides in the neighborhood, and may have fished often in the stream.'
`Do but look at him, Ellen, and judge whether his life can have
been spent in this lonely valley,' he replied. `The glow of many a
hotter sun than ours has darkened his brow; and his step and air have
something foreign in them, like what we see in sailors, who have lived
more in other countries than in their own. Is it not so, Ellen? --
for your education in a sea port must have given you skill in these
matters. But, come, -- let us approach near- er.'
They walked towards the angler, accordingly, who still remained
under the oak, apparently engaged in arrang- ing his fishing tackle.
As the party drew nigh, he raised his head and threw one quick,
scrutinizing glance towards them, disclosing, on his part, a set of
bold and rather coarse features, weather beaten, but indicating the
age of the owner to be not above thirty. In person he surpass- ed the
middle size, was well set, and evidently strong and active.
`Do you meet with much success, Sir?' inquired Ed- ward Walcott,
when within a convenient distance for con- versation.
`I have taken but one fish,' replied the angler, in an accent
which his hearers could scarcely determine to be foreign, or the
contrary. `I am a stranger to the stream, and have doubtless passed
over many a likely place for sport.'
`You have an angler's eye, Sir,' rejoined Edward. `I observed that
you made your casts as if you had often trod these banks, and I could
scarcely have guided you better myself.'
`Yes, I have learnt the art, and I love to practise it,' re- plied
the man. `But will not the young lady try her skill?' he continued,
casting a bold eye on Ellen. `The fish will love to be drawn out by
such white hands as those.'
Ellen shrank back, though almost imperceptibly, from the free
bearing of the man. It seemed meant for cour- tesy, but its effect was
excessively disagreeable. Edward Walcott, who perceived and coincided
in Ellen's feelings, replied to the stranger's proposal.
`The young lady will not put the gallantry of the fish to the
proof, Sir,' he said, `and she will therefore have no occasion for
`I shall take heave to hear my answer from the young lady's own
mouth,' answered the stranger, haughtily. `If you will step this way,
Miss Langton' -- here he inter- rupted himself, -- `if you will cast
the line by yonder sunk- en log, I think you will meet with success.'
Thus saying, the angler offered his rod and line to El- len. She
at first drew back, -- then hesitated, -- but final- ly held out her
hand to receive them. In thus comply- ing with the stranger's request,
she was actuated by a desire to keep the peace, which, as her notice
of Edward Walcott's crimsoned cheek and flashing eye assured her, was
considerably endangered. The angler led the way to the spot which he
had pointed out, which, though not at such a distance from Ellen's
companions but that words in a common tone could be distinguished, was
out of the range of a lowered voice.
Edward Walcott and the student remained by the oak, the former
biting his lip with vexation; the latter, whose abstraction always
vanished where Ellen was concerned, regarding her and the stranger
with fixed and silent at- tention. The young men could at first hear
the words that the angler addressed to Ellen. They related to the
mode of managing the rod; and she made one or two casts under his
direction. At length, however, as if to offer his assistance, the man
advanced close to her side, and seemed to speak; but in so low a tone,
that the sense of what he uttered was lost, before it reached the oak.
But its effect upon Ellen was immediate, and very obvious. Her eye
flashed, and an indignant blush rose high on her cheek, giving to her
beauty a haughty brightness, of which the gentleness of her
disposition in general depriv- ed it. The next moment, however, she
seemed to recol- lect herself, and restoring the angling rod to its
owner, she turned away, calmly, and approached her compan- ions.
`The evening breeze grows chill, and mine is a dress for a summer
day,' she observed. `Let us walk home- ward.'
`Miss Langton, is it the evening breeze, alone, that sends you
homeward?' inquired Edward.
At this moment, the angler, who had resumed and seemed to be
intent upon his occupation, drew a fish from the pool which he had
pointed out to Ellen.
`I told the young lady,' he exclaimed, `that if she would listen
to me a moment longer, she would be repaid for her trouble; -- and
here is the proof of my words.'
`Come, let us hasten towards home,' cried Ellen, ea- gerly; and
she took Edward Walcott's arm, with a free- dom that, at another time,
would have enchanted him. He at first seemed inclined to resist her
wishes; but com- plied, after exchanging, unperceived by Ellen, a
glance with the stranger, the meaning of which the latter appear- ed
perfectly to understand. Fanshawe also attended her. Their walk
towards Doctor Melmoth's dwelling was al- most a silent one, and the
few words that passed between them, did not relate to the adventure
which occupied the thoughts of each. On arriving at the house, Ellen's
at- tendants took leave of her, and retired.
Edward Walcott, eluding Fanshawe's observation with little
difficulty, hastened back to the old oak tree. From the intelligence
with which the stranger had received his meaning glance, the young man
had supposed that he would here await his return. But the banks of the
stream, upward and downward, so far as his eye could reach, were
solitary. He could see only his own image in the water, where it
swept into a silent depth; and could hear only its ripple, where
stones and sunken trees impeded its course. The object of his search
might indeed have found concealment among the tufts of alders, or in
the forest that was near at hand; but thither it was in vain to
pursue him. The angler had apparently set little store by the fruits
of his assumed occupation; for the last fish that he had taken lay yet
alive on the bank, gasping for the element to which Edward was
sufficiently compassion- ate to restore him. After watching him as he
glided down the stream, making feeble efforts to resist its cur-
rent, the youth turned away, and sauntered slowly towards the
Ellen Langton, on her return from her walk, found Doctor Melmoth's
little parlor unoccupied, that gentle- man being deeply engaged in his
study, and his lady busied in her domestic affairs. The evening,
notwith- standing Ellen's remark concerning the chillness of the
breeze, was almost sultry, and the windows of the apart- ment were
thrown open. At one of these, which looked into the garden, she seated
herself, listening almost un- consciously to the monotonous music of a
thousand insects, varied, occasionally, by the voice of a
whippoorwill, who, as the day departed, was just commencing his song.
A dusky tint, as yet almost imperceptible, was beginning to settle on
the surrounding objects, except where they were opposed to the purple
and golden clouds, which the van- ished sun had made the brief
inheritors of a portion of his brightness. In these gorgeous vapors,
Ellen's fancy, in the interval of other thoughts, pictured a fairy
land, and longed for wings to visit it.
But as the clouds lost their brilliancy, and assumed first a dull
purple, and then a sullen grey tint, Ellen's thoughts recurred to the
adventure of the angler, which her imagination was inclined to invest
with an undue sin- gularity. It was, however, sufficiently
unaccountable, that an entire stranger should venture to demand of her
a private audience; and she assigned, in turn, a thousand motives for
such a request, none of which were in any degree satisfactory. Her
most prevailing thought, though she could not justify it to her
reason, inclined her to be- lieve that the angler was a messenger from
her father. But wherefore he should deem it necessary to communi-
cate any intelligence, that he might possess, only by means of a
private interview, and without the knowledge of her friends, was a
mystery she could not solve. In this view of the matter, however, she
half regretted that her instinctive delicacy had impelled her so
suddenly to break off their conference, admitting, in the secrecy of
her own mind, that, if an opportunity were again to occur, it might
not again be shunned. As if that unuttered thought had power to
conjure up its object, she now be- came aware of a form, standing in
the garden, at a short distance from the window, where she sat. The
dusk had deepened, during Ellen's abstraction, to such a degree, that
the man's features were not perfectly distinguisha- ble; but the
maiden was not long in doubt of his identity, for he approached, and
spoke in the same low tone in which he had addressed her, when they
stood by the stream.
`Do you still refuse my request, when its object is but your own
good, and that of one who should be most dear to you?' he asked.
Ellen's first impulse had been, to cry out for assistance -- her
second was, to fly; -- but rejecting both these mea- sures, she
determined to remain, endeavoring to persuade herself that she was
safe. The quivering of her voice, however, when she attempted to
reply, betrayed her ap- prehensions.
`I cannot listen to such a request from a stranger,' she said. `If
you bring news from -- from my father, why is it not told to Doctor
`Because what I have to say is for your ear alone,' was the reply;
`and if you would avoid misfortune now, and sorrow hereafter, you will
not refuse to hear me.'
`And does it concern my father?' asked Ellen, eagerly.
`It does -- most deeply,' answered the stranger.
She meditated a moment, and then replied, `I will not refuse, -- I
will hear -- but speak quickly.'
`We are in danger of interruption in this place, -- and that would
be fatal to my errand,' said the stranger. `I will await you in the
With these words, and giving her no opportunity for reply, he drew
back, and his form faded from her eyes. This precipitate retreat from
argument was the most pro- bable method, that he could have adopted,
of gaining his end. He had awakened the strongest interest in Ellen's
mind, and he calculated justly, in supposing that she would consent
to an interview upon his own terms. Doctor Melmoth had followed his
own fancies in the mode of laying out his garden; and, in consequence,
the plan that had undoubtedly existed in his mind, was utter- ly
incomprehensible to every one but himself. It was an intermixture of
kitchen and flower garden, -- a labyrinth of winding paths, bordered
by hedges and impeded by shrub- bery. Many of the original trees of
the forest were still flourishing among the exotics, which the Doctor
had trans- planted thither. It was not without a sensation of fear,
stronger than she had ever before experienced, that Ellen Langton
found herself in this artificial wilderness, and in the presence of
the mysterious stranger. The dusky light deepened the lines of his
dark, strong features, and Ellen fancied that his countenance wore a
wilder and a fiercer look, than when she had met him by the stream.
He perceived her agitation, and addressed her in the softest tones of
which his voice was capable.
`Compose yourself,' he said, `you have nothing to fear from me.
But we are in open view from the house, where we now stand; and
discovery would not be with- out danger, to both of us.'
`No eye can see us here,' said Ellen, trembling at the truth of
her own observation, when they stood beneath a gnarled, low-branched
pine, which Doctor Melmoth's ideas of beauty had caused him to retain
in his garden. `Speak quickly; for I dare follow you no farther.'
The spot was indeed sufficiently solitary, and the stran- ger
delayed no longer to explain his errand.
`Your father,' he began, -- `Do you not love him? Would you do
aught for his welfare?'
`Every thing that a father could ask, I would do,' ex- claimed
Ellen, eagerly. `Where is my father; and when shall I meet him?' `It
must depend upon yourself, whether you shall meet him in a few days or
`Never!' repeated Ellen. `Is he ill? -- Is he in dan- ger?'
`He is in danger,' replied the man; `but not from ill- ness. Your
father is a ruined man. Of all his friends, but one remains to him.
That friend has travelled far, to prove if his daughter has a
`And what is to be the proof?' asked Ellen, with more calmness
than the stranger had anticipated; for she pos- sessed a large fund of
plain sense, which revolted against the mystery of these proceedings.
Such a course, too, seemed discordant with her father's character,
whose strong mind and almost cold heart were little likely to demand,
or even to pardon, the romance of affection.
`This letter will explain,' was the reply to Ellen's question.
`You will see that it is in your father's hand; and that may gain your
confidence, though I am doubted.'
She received the letter, and many of her suspicions of the
stranger's truth were vanquished by the apparent open- ness of his
manner. He was preparing to speak further, but paused, -- for a
footstep was now heard, approaching from the lower part of the garden.
From their situation, at some distance from the path, and in the shade
of the tree, they had a fair chance of eluding discovery from any
unsuspecting passenger; and when Ellen saw that the intruder was
Fanshawe, she hoped that his usual ab- straction would assist their
But, as the student advanced along the path, his air was not that
of one, whose deep, inward thoughts with- drew his attention from all
outward objects. He rather resembled the hunter, on the watch for his
game; and while he was yet at a distance from Ellen, a wandering gust
of wind waved her white garment and betrayed her. `It is as I feared,'
said Fanshawe to himself. He then drew nigh, and addressed Ellen with
a calm authority that became him well, notwithstanding that his years
scarcely exceeded her own. `Miss Langton,' he inquir- ed, `what do
you here, at such an hour, and with such a companion?'
Ellen was sufficiently displeased at what she deemed the
unauthorized intrusion of Fanshawe in her affairs; but his imposing
manner and her own confusion prevent- ed her from replying.
`Permit me to lead you to the house,' he continued, in the words
of a request, but in the tone of a command. `The dew hangs dank and
heavy on these branches, and a longer stay would be more dangerous
than you are aware.'
Ellen would fain have resisted; but, though the tears hung as
heavy on her eye lashes, between shame and an- ger, as the dew upon
the leaves, she felt compelled to ac- cept the arm that he offered
her. But the stranger, who, since Fanshawe's approach, had remained a
little apart, now advanced.
`You speak as one in authority, young man,' he said. `Have you the
means of compelling obedience? Does your power extend to men? -- Or do
you rule only over simple girls? Miss Langton is under my protection,
and, till you can bend me to your will, she shall remain so.'
Fanshawe turned, calmly, and fixed his eye on the stranger.
`Retire, Sir,' was all he said.
Ellen almost shuddered, as if there were a mysterious and
unearthly power in Fanshawe's voice; for she saw that the stranger
endeavored in vain, borne down by the influence of a superior mind, to
maintain the boldness of look and bearing, that seemed natural to him.
He at first made a step forward, -- then muttered a few half au-
dible words; -- but, quailing at length beneath the young man's
bright and steady eye, he turned and slowly with- drew.
Fanshawe remained silent, a moment, after his oppo- nent had
departed; and when he next spoke, it was in a tone of depression.
Ellen observed, also, that his coun- tenance had lost its look of
pride and authority; and he seemed faint and exhausted. The occasion
that called forth his energies had passed; and they had left him.
`Forgive me, Miss Langton,' he said, almost humbly, if my
eagerness to serve you has led me too far. There is evil in this
stranger, more than your pure mind can conceive. I know not what has
been his errand; but let me entreat you to put confidence in those to
whose care your father has entrusted you. Or if I, -- or -- or Edward
Walcott; -- but I have no right to advise you; and your own calm
thoughts will guide you best.'
He said no more; and, as Ellen did not reply, they reached the
house, and parted in silence.
The seeds by nature planted Take a deep root i'th soil, and though
for a time The trenchant share and tearing harrow may Sweep all
appearance of them from the surface, Yet, with the first warm rains of
Spring, they'll shoot, And with their rankness smother the good grain.
Heaven grant, it mayn't be so with him. Riches.
The scene of this tale must now be changed to the lit- tle Inn,
which at that period, as at the present, was situ- ated in the
vicinity of Harley College. The site of the modern establishment is
the same with that of the ancient, but every thing of the latter, that
had been built by hands, has gone to decay and been removed, and only
the earth, beneath and around it, remains the same. The modern
building, a house of two stories, after a lapse of twenty years, is
yet unfinished. On this account, it has retained the appellation of
the `new Inn,' though, like many who have frequented it, it has grown
old ere its maturity. Its dingy whiteness and its apparent superfluity
of windows (many of them being closed with rough boards) give it
somewhat of a dreary look, especially in a wet day.
The ancient Inn was a house, of which the eaves ap- proached
within about seven feet of the ground, while the roof, sloping
gradually upward, formed an angle at seve- ral times that height. It
was a comfortable and pleas- ant abode to the weary traveller, both in
summer and winter; for the frost never ventured within the sphere of
its huge hearths; and it was protected from the heat of the sultry
season by three large elms that swept the roof with their long
branches and seemed to create a breeze where there was not one. The
device upon the sign, suspended from one of these trees, was a Hand,
holding a long necked Bottle, and was much more appro- priate than
the present unmeaning representation, of a Black Eagle. But it is
necessary to speak rather more at length of the Landlord, than of the
house over which he presided.
Hugh Crombie was one, for whom most of the wise men, who
considered the course of his early years, had predicted the gallows as
an end, before he should arrive at middle age. That these prophets of
ill had been de- ceived was evident from the fact, that the doomed man
had now past the fortieth year, and was in more prosper- ous
circumstances than most of those who had wagged their tongues against
him. Yet the failure of their fore- bodings was more remarkable than
their fulfilment would have been.
He had been distinguished almost from his earliest in- fancy by
those precocious accomplishments, which, be- cause they consist in an
imitation of the vices and follies of maturity, render a boy the
favorite plaything of men. He seemed to have received from nature the
convivial talents, which, whether natural or acquired, are a most
dangerous possession; and before his twelfth year he was the welcome
associate of all the idle and dissipated of his neighborhood, and
especially of those who haunted the tavern of which he had now become
the landlord. Under this course of education Hugh Crombie grew to
youth and manhood; and the lovers of good words could only say in his
favor, that he was a greater enemy to himself than to any one else,
and that, if he should reform, few would have a better chance of
prosperity than he.
The former clause of this modicum of praise (if praise it may be
termed) was indisputable; but it may be doubt- ed, whether, under any
circumstances where his success depended on his own exertions, Hugh
would have made his way well through the world. He was one of those
unfor- tunate persons, who, instead of being perfect in any sin- gle
art or occupation, are superficial in many, and who are supposed to
possess a larger share of talent than oth- er men, because it consists
of numerous scraps instead of a single mass. He was partially
acquainted with most of the manual arts that gave bread to others; but
not one of them, nor all of them, would give bread to him. By some
fatality, the only two of his multifarious accomplish- ments, in which
his excellence was generally conceded, were both calculated to keep
him poor rather than to make him rich. He was a musician and a poet.
There are yet remaining, in that portion of the country, many
ballads and songs -- set to their own peculiar tunes -- the authorship
of which is attributed to him. In gen- eral, his productions were upon
subjects of local and tem- porary interest, and would consequently
require a bulk of explanatory notes, to render them interesting or
intel- ligible to the world at large. A considerable proportion of
the remainder are Anacreontics, -- though, in their con- struction,
Hugh Crombie imitated neither the Teian nor any other bard. These
latter have generally a coarse- ness and sensuality, intolerable to
minds even of no very fastidious delicacy. But there are two or three
simple little songs, into which a feeling and a natural pathos have
found their way, that still retain their influence over the heart.
These, after two or three centuries, may per- haps be precious to the
collectors of our early poetry. At any rate, Hugh Crombie's effusions,
tavern haunter and vagrant though he was, have gained a continuance
of fame (confined, indeed, to a narrow section of the country) which
many, who called themselves poets then, and would have scorned such a
brother, have failed to equal.
During the long winter evenings, when the farmers were idle round
their hearths, Hugh was a courted guest; for none could while away the
hours more skilfully than he. The winter therefore was his season of
prosperity; in which respect he differed from the butterflies and
useless insects, to which he otherwise bore a resemblance. Dur- ing
the cold months, a very desirable alteration for the bet- ter,
appeared in his outward man. His cheeks were plump and sanguine, his
eyes bright and cheerful, and the tip of his nose glowed with a
Bardolphian fire, -- a flame, indeed, which Hugh was so far a vestal
as to supply with its ne- cessary fuel, at all seasons of the year.
But as the Spring advanced, he assumed a lean and sallow look, wilting
and fading in the sunshine, that brought life and joy to every animal
and vegetable except himself. His winter patrons eyed him with an
austere regard, and some even practis- ed upon him the modern and
fashionable courtesy of the `cut direct.'
Yet, after all, there was good, or something that Nature intended
to be so, in the poor outcast, -- some lovely flow- ers, the sweeter
even for the weeds that choked them. An instance of this was his
affection for an aged father, whose whole support was the broken reed
-- his son. Not- withstanding his own necessities, Hugh contrived to
pro- vide food and raiment for the old man, -- how, it would be
difficult to say, and perhaps as well not to inquire. He also
exhibited traits of sensitiveness to neglect and insult, and of
gratitude for favors; both of which feelings a course of life like his
is usually quick to eradicate.
At length the restraint, for such his father had ever been, upon
Hugh Crombie's conduct, was removed by his death; and then the wise
men and the old began to shake their heads; and they who took pleasure
in the fol- lies, vices, and misfortunes of their fellow-creatures,
look- ed for a speedy gratification. They were disappointed, however;
for Hugh had apparently determined, that, whatever might be his
catastrophe, he would meet it among strangers, rather than at home.
Shortly after his father's death, he disappeared altogether from the
vicini- ty; and his name became, in the course of years, an un- usual
sound, where once the lack of other topics of inter- est had given it
a considerable degree of notoriety. Some- times, however, when the
winter blast was loud round the lonely farm-house, its inmates
remembered him who had so often chased away the gloom of such an hour,
and, though with little expectation of its fulfilment, expressed a
wish to behold him again.
Yet that wish, formed perhaps because it appeared so desperate,
was finally destined to be gratified. One sum- mer evening, about two
years previous to the period of this tale, a man of sober and staid
deportment, mounted upon a white horse, arrived at the Hand and
Bottle, to which some civil or military meeting had chanced that day
to draw most of the inhabitants of the vicinity. The stranger was
well, though plainly dressed, and anywhere but in a retired country
town, would have attracted no particular attention; but here, where a
traveller was not of every day occurrence, he was soon surrounded by a
little crowd, who, when his eye was averted, seized the opportunity
diligently to peruse his person. He was rath- er a thick-set man, but
with no superfluous flesh; his hair was of iron-grey; he had a few
wrinkles; his face was so deeply sun burnt, that, excepting a half
smothered glow on the tip of his nose, a dusky yellow was the only
appa- rent hue. As the people gazed, it was observed that the elderly
men, and the men of substance, gat themselves silently to their
steeds, and hied homeward with an unu- sual degree of haste; till at
length the inn was deserted, except by a few wretched objects to whom
it was a con- stant resort. These, instead of retreating, drew closer
to the traveller, peeping anxiously into his face, and asking, ever
and anon, a question, in order to discover the tone of his voice. At
length, with one consent, and as if the recognition had at once burst
upon them, they hailed their old boon companion, Hugh Crombie, and
leading him in- to the inn, did him the honor to partake of a cup of
wel- come at his expense.
But, though Hugh readily acknowledged the not very reputable
acquaintances, who alone acknowledged him, they speedily discovered
that he was an altered man. He partook with great moderation of the
liquor, for which he was to pay; he declined all their flattering
entreaties for one of his old songs; and, finally, being urged to en-
gage in a game at all-fours, he calmly observed, almost in the words
of an old clergyman, on a like occasion, that his principles forbade a
profane appeal to the decision by lot.
On the next sabbath, Hugh Crombie made his appear- ance at public
worship, in the chapel of Harley College, and here his outward
demeanor was unexceptionably se- rious and devout, -- a praise, which,
on that particular oc- casion, could be bestowed on few besides. From
these favorable symptons, the old established prejudices against him
began to waver; and, as he seemed not to need, and to have no
intention to ask, the assistance of any one, he was soon generally
acknowledged by the rich, as well as by the poor. His account of his
past life and of his in- tentions for the future was brief, but not
unsatisfactory. He said, that, since his departure, he had been a
sea-far- ing man, and that, having acquired sufficient property to
render him easy in the decline of his days, he had return- ed to live
and die in the town of his nativity.
There was one person, and the one whom Hugh was most interested to
please, who seemed perfectly satisfied of the verity of his
reformation. This was the landlady of the inn, whom, at his departure,
he had left a gay, and, even at thirty-five, a rather pretty wife, and
whom, on his return, he found a widow of fifty, fat, yellow, wrink-
led, and a zealous member of the church. She, like oth- ers, had at
first cast a cold eye on the wanderer; but it shortly became evident,
to close observers, that a change was at work in the pious matron's
sentiments, respecting her old acquaintance. She was now careful to
give him his morning dram from her own peculiar bottle, -- to fill
his pipe from her private box of Virginia, -- and to mix for him the
sleeping cup, in which her late husband had delighted. Of all these
courtesies Hugh Crombie did partake, with a wise and cautious
moderation, that, while it proved them to be welcome, expressed his
fear of tres- passing on her kindness. For the sake of brevity, it
shall suffice to say, that, about six weeks after Hugh's return, a
writing appeared on one of the elm-trees in front of the tavern,
(where, as the place of greatest resort, such noti- ces were usually
displayed) setting forth, that marriage was intended between Hugh
Crombie and the Widow Sarah Hutchins. And the ceremony, which made
Hugh a landholder, a householder, and a substantial man, in due time
As a landlord, his general conduct was very praise- worthy. He was
moderate in his charges, and attentive to his guests; he allowed no
gross and evident disorders in his house, and practised none himself;
he was kind and charitable to such as needed food and lodging, and
had not wherewithal to pay, -- for with these his experi- ence had
doubtless given him a fellow feeling. He was also sufficiently
attentive to his wife; though it must be acknowledged that the
religious zeal, which had had a considerable influence in gaining her
affections, grew, by no moderate degrees, less fervent. It was
whispered, too, that the new landlord could, when time, place, and
company were to his mind, upraise a song as merrily, and drink a
glass as jollily as in the days of yore. These were the weightiest
charges that could now be brought against him; and wise men thought,
that, whatever might have been the evil of his past life, he had
returned with a desire (which years of vice, if they do not sometimes
produce, do not always destroy) of being honest if oppor- tunity
should offer; -- and Hugh had certainly a fair one.
On the afternoon previous to the events related in the last
chapter, the personage, whose introduction to the reader has occupied
so large a space, was seated under one of the elms, in front of his
dwelling. The bench which now sustained him, and on which were carved
the names of many former occupants, was Hugh Crombie's favorite
lounging place, unless when his attentions were required by his
guests. No demand had that day been made upon the hospitality of the
Hand and Bottle, and the landlord was just then murmuring at the
unfrequency of employment. The slenderness of his profits, indeed,
were no part of his concern; for the Widow Hutchins' chief income was
drawn from her farm, nor was Hugh ever miserly inclined. But his
education and habits had made him delight in the atmosphere of the
Sun, and in the society of those who frequented it; and of this
species of enjoyment his present situation certainly did not afford
Yet had Hugh Crombie an enviable appearance of in- dolence and
ease, as he sat under the old tree, polluting the sweet air with his
pipe, and taking occasional draughts from a brown jug, that stood near
at hand. The basis of the potation contained in this vessel, was harsh
old cider, from the Widow's own orchard; but its coldness and acid-
ity were rendered innocuous by a due proportion of yet older brandy.
The result of this mixture was extremely felicitous, pleasant to the
taste, and producing a tingling sensation on the coats of the stomach,
uncommonly delec- table to so old a toper as Hugh.
The landlord cast his eye, ever and anon, along the road that led
down the valley in the direction of the vil- lage; and at last, when
the sun was wearing westward, he discovered the approach of a
horseman. He immedi- ately replenished his pipe, took a long draught
from the brown jug, summoned the ragged youth who officiated in most
of the subordinate departments of the Inn, and who was now to act as
ostler; and then prepared himself for confabulation with his guest.
`He comes from the sea-coast,' said Hugh to himself, as the
traveller emerged into open view on the level road. `He is two days in
advance of the post, with its news of a fortnight old. Pray heaven, he
prove communicative!' Then as the stranger drew nigher, `one would
judge that his dark face had seen as hot a sun as mine. He has felt
the burning breeze of the Indies, East and West, I warrant him. Ah, I
see we shall send away the evening merrily! Not a penny shall come out
of his purse, -- that is, if his tongue runs glibly. Just the man I
was praying for -- Now may the devil take me if he is!' interrupted
Hugh, in accents of alarm, and starting from his seat. He composed
his countenance, however, with the power that long habit and necessity
had given him over his emo- tions, and again settled himself quietly
on the bench. The traveller, coming on at a moderate pace, alighted
and gave his horse to the ragged ostler. He then ad- vanced towards
the door near which Hugh was seated, whose agitation was manifested by
no perceptible sign, except by the shorter and more frequented puffs
with which he plied his pipe. Their eyes did not meet till just as
the stranger was about to enter, when he started appa- rently with a
surprise and alarm similar to those of Hugh Crombie. He recovered
himself, however, sufficiently to return the nod of recognition with
which he was favored, and immediately entered the house, the landlord
`This way, if you please, Sir,' said Hugh. `You will find this
apartment cool and retired.'
He ushered his guest into a small room, the windows of which were
darkened by the creeping plants that cluster- ed round them. Entering
and closing the door, the two gazed at each other, a little space,
without speaking. The traveller first broke silence.
`Then this is your living self, Hugh Crombie?' he said. The
landlord extended his hand as a practical reply to the question. The
stranger took it, though with no especial appearance of cordiality.
`Ay, this seems to be flesh and blood,' he said, in the tone of
one who would willingly have found it otherwise. `And how happens
this, friend Hugh? I little thought to meet you again in this life.
When I last heard from you, your prayers were said, and you were bound
for a better world.'
`There would have been small danger of your meet- ing me there,'
observed the landlord, dryly.
`It is an unquestionable truth, Hugh,' replied the trav- eller.
`For which reason I regret that your voyage was delayed.
`Nay, that is a hard word to bestow on your old com- rade,' said
Hugh Crombie. `The world is wide enough for both of us, and why should
you wish me out of it?'
`Wide as it is,' rejoined the stranger, `we have stum- bled
against each other, -- to the pleasure of neither of us, if I may
judge from your countenance. Methinks I am not a welcome guest at Hugh
`Your welcome must depend on the cause of your com- ing and the
length of your stay,' replied the landlord.
`And what if I come to settle down among these quiet hills where I
was born?' inquired the other. `What if I, too, am weary of the life
we have led, -- or afraid, perhaps, that it will come to too speedy an
end? Shall I have your good word, Hugh, to set me up in an honest way
of life? Or will you make me a partner in your trade, since you know
my qualifications? A pretty pair of publicans should we be, and the
quart pot would have little rest be- tween us.'
`It may be as well to replenish it now,' observed Hugh, stepping
to the door of the room and giving orders accordingly. `A meeting
between old friends should never be dry. But for the partnership, it
is a mat- ter in which you must excuse me. Heaven knows, I find it
hard enough to be honest, with no tempter but the devil and my own
thoughts; and if I have you also to contend with, there is little hope
`Nay, that is true. Your good resolutions were always like
cobwebs, and your evil habits like five inch cables,' replied the
traveller. `I am to understand, then, that you refuse my offer?'
`Not only that, -- but if you have chosen this valley as your
place of rest, Dame Crombie and I must look through the world for
another. But, hush, -- here comes the wine.'
The ostler, in the performance of another part of his duty, now
appeared, bearing a measure of the liquor that Hugh had ordered. The
wine of that period, owing to the comparative lowness of the duties,
was of more mod- erate price than in the mother country, and of purer
and better quality than at the present day.
`The stuff is well chosen, Hugh,' observed the guest, after a
draught large enough to authorize an opinion. `You have most of the
requisites for your present station, and I should be sorry to draw you
from it. I trust there will be no need.'
`Yet you have a purpose in your journey hither,' ob- served his
`Yes, -- and you would fain be informed of it,' replied the
traveller. He arose and walked once or twice across the room; then
seeming to have taken his resolution, he paused and fixed his eye
stedfastly on Hugh Crombie. `I could wish, my old acquaintance,' he
said, `that your lot had been cast any where rather than here. Yet if
you choose it, you may do me a good office, and one that shall meet
with a good reward. Can I trust you?'
`My secrecy, you can,' answered the host, `but no- thing farther.
I know the nature of your plans, and whither they would lead me, too
well to engage in them. To say the truth, since it concerns not me, I
have little desire to hear your secret.'
`And I as little to tell it, I do assure you,' rejoined the guest.
`I have always loved to manage my affairs myself, and to keep them to
myself. It is a good rule, but it must sometimes be broken. And now,
Hugh, how is it that you have become possessed of this comfortable
dwelling and of these pleasant fields?'
`By my marriage with the Widow Sarah Hutchins,' replied Hugh
Crombie, staring at a question, which seem- ed to have little
reference to the present topic of conver- sation.
`It is a most excellent method of becoming a man of substance,'
continued the traveller; -- `attended with lit- tle trouble, and
`Why, as to the trouble,' said the landlord, `it follows such a
bargain, instead of going before it. And for hon- esty -- I do not
recollect that I have gained a penny more honestly these twenty
`I can swear to that,' observed his comrade. `Well, mine host, I
entirely approve of your doings; and, more- over, have resolved to
prosper after the same fashion my- self.'
`If that be the commodity you seek,' replied Hugh Crombie, `you
will find none here to your mind. We have widows in plenty, it is
true, but most of them have children and few have houses and lands.
But now to be serious -- and there has been something serious in your
eye, all this while -- what is your purpose in coming hith- er? You
are not safe here. Your name has had a wid- er spread than mine, and
if discovered it will go hard with you.'
`But who would know me, now?' asked the guest.
`Few, -- few indeed,' replied the landlord, gazing at the dark
features of his companion, where hardship, peril and dissipation had
each left their traces. `No, you are not like the slender boy of
fifteen, who stood on the hill by moonlight, to take a last look at
his father's cottage. There were tears in your eyes, then; and as
often as I remember them, I repent that I did not turn you back,
instead of leading you on.'
`Tears, were there? Well, there have been few enough since,' said
his comrade, pressing his eyelids firmly to- gether, as if even then
tempted to give way to the weak- ness that he scorned. `And for
turning me back, Hugh, it was beyond your power. I had taken my
resolution, and you did but shew me the way to execute it.'
`You have not inquired after those you left behind,' observed Hugh
`No, -- no; -- nor will I have aught of them,' exclaimed the
traveller, starting from his seat, and pacing rapidly across the room.
`My father, I know, is dead, and I have forgiven him. My mother --
What could I hear of her, but misery? -- I will hear nothing.'
`You must have passed the cottage, as you rode hith- erward,' said
Hugh. `How could you forbear to enter?'
`I did not see it,' he replied. `I closed my eyes and turned away
`Oh, if I had had a mother -- a loving mother, -- if there had
been one being in the world, that loved me or cared for me, I should
not have become an utter cast away,' exclaimed Hugh Crombie.
The landlord's pathos, -- like all pathos that flows from the wine
cup, -- was sufficiently ridiculous; and his com- panion, who had
already overcome his own brief feelings of sorrow and remorse, now
`Come, come, mine host of the Hand and Bottle,' he cried, in his
usual hard, sarcastic tone; `be a man, as much as in you lies. You had
always a foolish trick of repentance; but, as I remember, it was
commonly of a morning, before you had swallowed your first dram. And
now, Hugh, fill the quart pot again, and we will to busi- ness.'
When the landlord had complied with the wishes of his guest, the
latter resumed in a lower tone than that of his ordinary conversation.
`There is a young lady, lately become a resident here- abouts.
Perhaps you can guess her name; for you have a quick apprehension in
`A young lady?' repeated Hugh Crombie. `And what is your concern
with her? Do you mean Ellen Langton, daughter of the old Merchant
Langton, whom you have some cause to remember?'
`I do remember him; but he is where he will speedily be
forgotten,' answered the traveller. `And this girl -- I know your eye
has been upon her, Hugh. Describe her to me.'
`Describe her,' exclaimed Hugh, with much animation. `It is
impossible, in prose; but you shall have her very picture, in a verse
of one of my own songs.'
`Nay, mine host, I beseech you to spare me. This is no time for
quavering,' said the guest. `However, I am proud of your approbation,
my old friend, -- for this young lady do I intend to take to wife.
What think you of the plan?'
Hugh Crombie gazed into his companion's face, for the space of a
moment, in silence. There was nothing in its expression that looked
like a jest. It still retained the same hard, cold look, that, except
when Hugh had allud- ed to his home and family, it had worn through
their whole conversation.
`On my word, comrade,' he at length replied, `my ad- vice is, that
you give over your application to the quart pot, and refresh your
brain by a short nap. And yet, your eye is cool and steady. What is
the meaning of this?'
`Listen, and you shall know,' said the guest. `The old man, her
father, is in his grave.' --
`Not a bloody grave, I trust,' interrupted the landlord, starting,
and looking fearfully into his comrade's face.
`No, a watery one,' he replied, calmly. `You see, Hugh, I am a
better man than you took me for. The old man's blood is not on my
head, though my wrongs are on his. Now listen. He had no heir but this
only daugh- ter; and to her, and to the man she marries, all his
wealth will belong. She shall marry me. Think you her fa- ther will
rest easy in the ocean, Hugh Crombie, when I am his son-in-law?'
`No, he will rise up to prevent it, if need be,' answer- ed the
landlord. `But the dead need not interpose to frustrate so wild a
`I understand you,' said his comrade. `You are of opinion that the
young lady's consent may not be so soon won as asked. Fear not for
that, mine host. I have a winning way with me, when opportunity
serves; and it shall serve with Ellen Langton. I will have no rivals
in my wooing.'
`Your intention, if I take it rightly, is to get this poor girl
into your power, and then to force her into a mar- riage,' said Hugh
`It is; and I think I possess the means of doing it,' replied his
comrade. `But methinks, friend Hugh, my enterprise has not your good
`No; and I pray you to give it over,' said Hugh Crom- bie, very
earnestly. `The girl is young, lovely, and as good as she is fair. I
cannot aid in her ruin. Nay more -- I must prevent it.'
`Prevent it!' exclaimed the traveller, with a darken- ing
countenance. `Think twice before you stir in this matter, I advise
you. Ruin, do you say? Does a girl call it ruin, to be made an honest
wedded wife? No, no, mine host; nor does a widow either, -- else have
you much to answer for.'
`I gave the Widow Hutchins fair play, at least; which is more than
poor Ellen is like to get,' observed the land- lord. `My old comrade,
will you not give up this scheme?'
`My old comrade, I will not give up this scheme,' re- turned the
other, composedly. `Why, Hugh, what has come over you, since we last
met? Have we not done twenty worse deeds of a morning, and laughed
over them at night?'
`He is right there,' said Hugh Crombie, in a medita- tive tone.
`Of a certainty, my conscience has grown unreasonably tender, within
the last two years. This one small sin, if I were to aid in it, would
add but a tri- fle to the sum of mine. But then the poor girl.' --
His companion overheard him thus communing with himself, and
having had much former experience of his infirmity of purpose, doubted
not that he should bend him to his will. In fact, his arguments were
so effectu- al, that Hugh at length, though reluctantly, promised his
co-operation. It was necessary that their motions should be speedy;
for, on the second day thereafter, the arrival of the post would bring
intelligence of the shipwreck, by which Mr. Langton had perished.
`And after the deed is done,' said the landlord, `I be- seech you
never to cross my path again. There have been more wicked thoughts in
my head, within the last hour, than for the whole two years that I
have been an honest man.'
`What a saint art thou become, Hugh!' said his com- rade. `But
fear not that we shall meet again. When I leave this valley, it will
be to enter it no more.'
`And there is little danger that any other, who has known me, will
chance upon me here,' observed Hugh Crombie. `Our trade was
unfavorable to length of days, and I suppose most of our old comrades
have arrived at the end of theirs.'
`One, whom you knew well, is nearer to you than you think,'
answered the traveller; `for I did not travel hith- erward entirely
A naughty night to swim in. Shakspeare.
The evening of the day succeeding the adventure of the angler, was
dark and tempestuous. The rain descend- ed almost in a continued
sheet, and occasional powerful gusts of wind drove it hard against the
north-eastern win- dows of Hugh Crombie's inn. But at least one apart-
ment of the interior presented a scene of comfort, and of apparent
enjoyment; the more delightful from its con- trast with the elemental
fury that raged without. A fire, which the chillness of the evening,
though a summer one, made necessary, was burning brightly on the
hearth; and in front was placed a small round table, sustaining wine
and glasses. One of the guests, for whom these preparations had been
made, was Edward Walcott. The other was a shy, awkward young man,
distinguished, by the union of classic and rural dress, as having but
lately become a student of Harley College. He seemed little at his
ease, -- probably from a con- sciousness that he was on forbidden
ground, and that the wine, of which he nevertheless swallowed a larger
share than his companion, was an unlawful draught.
In the catalogue of crimes, provided against by the laws of Harley
College, that of tavern-haunting was one of the principal. The
secluded situation of the Semina- ry, indeed, gave its scholars but a
very limited choice of vices; and this was therefore the usual channel
by which the wildness of youth discharged itself. Edward Walcott,
though naturally temperate, had been not an unfrequent offender in
this respect; for which a superfluity both of time and money might
plead some excuse. But since his acquaintance with Ellen Langton he
had rarely en- tered Hugh Crombie's doors; and an interruption in
that acquaintance was the cause of his present appear- ance there.
Edward's jealous pride had been considerably touched on Ellen's
compliance with the request of the angler. He had by degrees,
imperceptible perhaps to himself, as- sumed the right of feeling
displeased with her conduct; and she had as imperceptibly accustomed
herself to con- sider what would be his wishes, and to act
accordingly. He would, indeed, in no contingency, have ventured an
open remonstrance; and such a proceeding would have been attended by
a result, the reverse of what he desired. But there existed between
them a silent compact (ac- knowledged perhaps by neither, but felt by
both) ac- cording to which they had regulated the latter part of
their intercourse. Their lips had yet spoken no word of love; but
some of love's rights and privileges had been assumed on the one side,
and at least not disallow- ed on the other.
Edward's penetration had been sufficiently quick to discover that
there was a mystery about the angler -- that there must have been a
cause for the blush that rose so proudly on Ellen's cheek; and his
quixotism had been not a little mortified, because she did not
immediately appeal to his protection. He had however paid his usu- al
visit, the next day, at Doctor Melmoth's, expecting that, by a smile
of more than common brightness, she would make amends to his wounded
feelings, -- such hav- ing been her usual mode of reparation, in the
few instan- ces of disagreement that had occurred between them. But
he was diappointed. He found her cold, silent, and abstracted,
inattentive when he spoke, and indisposed to speak herself. Her eye
was sedulously averted from his; and the casual meeting of their
glances, only prov- ed, that there were feelings in her bosom which he
did not share. He was unable to account for this change in her
deportment; and, added to his previous conceptions of his wrongs, it
produced an effect upon his rather has- ty temper, that might have
manifested itself violently, but for the presence of Mrs. Melmoth. He
took his leave in very evident displeasure; but, just as he closed
the door, he noticed an expression in Ellen's counte- nance, that,
had they been alone, and had not he been quite so proud, would have
drawn him down to her feet. Their eyes met, -- when, suddenly, there
was a gush of tears into those of Ellen, and a deep sadness, almost
despair, spread itself over her features. He paused a moment, and
then went his way; equally unable to ac- count for her coldness, or
for her grief. He was well aware, however, that his situation in
respect to her, was unaccountably changed, -- a conviction so
disagreeable, that, but for a hope that is latent, even in the despair
of youthful hearts, he could have been sorely tempted to shoot
The gloom of his thoughts -- a mood of mind the more intolerable
to him, because so unusual -- had driven him to Hugh Crombie's inn, in
search of artificial excite- ment. But even the wine had no
attractions; and his first glass stood now almost untouched before
him, while he gazed in heavy thought into the glowing embers of the
fire. His companion perceived his melancholy, and essayed to dispel it
by a choice of such topics of conver- sation, as he conceived would be
`There is a lady in the house,' he observed. `I caught a glimpse
of her in the passage, as we came in. Did you see her, Edward?'
`A lady,' repeated Edward carelessly. `What know you of ladies?
No, I did not see her; but I will ven- ture to say that it was dame
Crombie's self, and no other.'
`Well, perhaps it might,' said the other, doubtingly. `Her head
was turned from me, and she was gone like a shadow.'
`Dame Crombie is no shadow, and never vanishes like one,' resumed
Edward. `You have mistaken the slip-shod servant girl for a lady.'
`Ay, but she had a white hand, a small white hand,' said the
student, piqued at Edward's contemptuous opin- ion of his powers of
observation, -- `as white as Ellen Langton's. He paused, for the lover
was offended by the profanity of the comparison, as was made evident
by the blood that rushed to his brow.
`We will appeal to the landlord,' said Edward, recov- ering his
equanimity, and turning to Hugh, who just then entered the room --
`Who is this angel, mine host, that has taken up her abode in the Hand
Hugh cast a quick glance from one to another, before he answered,
`I keep no angels here, gentlemen. Dame Crombie would make the house
any thing but heaven, for them and me.'
`And yet Glover has seen a vision in the passage way, -- a lady
with a small white hand.'
`Ah! I understand, -- a slight mistake of the young gentleman's,'
said Hugh, with the air of one who could perfectly account for the
mystery. `Our passage way is dark, -- or perhaps the light had dazzled
his eyes. It was the widow Fowler's daughter, that came to borrow a
pipe of tobacco for her mother. By the same token, she put it into
her own sweet mouth, and puffed as she went along.'
`But the white hand,' said Glover, only half con- vinced.
`Nay, I know not,' answered Hugh, `but her hand was at least as
white as her face; that I can swear. Well, gentlemen, I trust you find
every thing in my house to your satisfaction. When the fire needs
renewing, or the wine runs low, be pleased to tap on the table. I
shall appear with the speed of a sunbeam.
After the departure of the landlord, the conversation of the young
men amounted to little more than monosyl- lables. Edward Walcott was
wrapped in his own con- templations, and his companion was in a half
slumberous state, from which he started every quarter of an hour, at
the chiming of the clock that stood in a corner. The fire died
gradually away, the lamps began to burn dim, and Glover, rousing
himself from one of his periodical slumbers, was about to propose a
return to their cham- bers. He was prevented, however, by the approach
of footsteps along the passage way; and Hugh Crombie, opening the
door, ushered a person into the room, and retired.
The new comer was Fanshawe. The water, that poured plentifully
from his cloak, evinced that he had but just arrived at the inn; but
whatever was his object, he seemed not to have attained it, in meeting
with the young men. He paused near the door, as if meditating whether
`My intrusion is altogether owing to a mistake, either of the
landlord's, or mine,' he said; `I came hither to seek another person;
but as I could not mention his name, my inquiries were rather vague.'
`I thank heaven for the chance that sent you to us,' replied
Edward, rousing himself; Glover is wretched company, and a duller
evening have I never spent. We will renew our fire, and our wine, and
you must sit down with us. And for the man you seek,' he continued in
a whisper, `he left the inn within a half hour after we en- countered
him. I inquired of Hugh Crombie, last night.'
Fanshawe did not express his doubts of the correct- ness of the
information on which Edward seemed to re- ly. Laying aside his cloak,
he accepted his invita- tion to make one of the party, and sat down by
the fire- side.
The aspect of the evening now gradually changed. A strange wild
glee spread from one to another of the par- ty, which, much to the
surprise of his companions, began with, and was communicated from,
Fanshawe. He seemed to overflow with conceptions, inimitably ludi-
crous, but so singular, that, till his hearers had imbibed a portion
of his own spirit, they could only wonder at, in- stead of enjoying
them. His application to the wine were very unfrequent; yet his
conversation was such as one might expect from a bottle of champagne,
endowed by a fairy with the gift of speech. The secret of this
strange mirth lay in the troubled state of his spirits, which, like
the vexed ocean at midnight, (if the simile be not too magnificent)
tossed forth a myterious bright- ness. The undefined apprehensions,
that had drawn him to the inn, still distracted his mind; but mixed
with them, there was a sort of joy, not easily to be described. By
degrees, and by the assistance of the wine, the inspira- tion spread,
each one contributing such a quantity, and such quality of wit and
whim, as was proportioned to his genius; but each one, and all,
displaying a greater share of both, than they had ever been suspected
of pos- sessing.
At length, however, there was a pause, -- the deep pause of
flagging spirits, that always follows mirth and wine. No one would
have believed, on beholding the pensive faces, and hearing the
involuntary sighs, of the party, that from these, but a moment before,
had arisen so loud and wild a laugh. During this interval, Edward
Walcott, (who was the poet of his class,) volunteered the following
song, which, from its want of polish, and from its application to his
present feelings, might charitably be taken for an extemporaneous
production. The wine is bright, the wine is bright,
And gay the drinkers be; Of all that drain the bowl to-night,
Most jollily drain we. Oh, could one search the weary earth,
The earth from sea to sea, -- He'd turn and mingle in our mirth,
For we're the merriest three. Yet there are cares, oh, heavy
We know that they are nigh; When forth each lonely drinker fares,
Mark then his altered eye. Care comes upon us when the jest,
And frantic laughter, die; And care will watch the parting guest,
O late, then, let us fly!
Hugh Crombie, whose early love of song and min- strelsy was still
alive, had entered the room at the sound of Edward's voice, in
sufficient time to accompany the second stanza on the violin. He now,
with the air of one who was entitled to judge in these matters,
express- ed his opinion of the performance.
`Really, master Walcott, I was not prepared for this,' he said, in
the tone of condescending praise, that a great man uses to his
inferior, when he chooses to overwhelm him with excess of joy. `Very
well, indeed, young gen- tleman. Some of the lines, it is true, seem
to have been dragged in by the head and shoulders; but I could
scarcely have done much better myself, at your age. With practice,
and with such instruction as I might af- ford you, I should have
little doubt of your becoming a distinguished poet. A great defect in
your seminary, gentlemen, -- the want of due cultivation in this
`Perhaps, Sir,' said Edward, with much gravity, `you might
yourself be prevailed upon to accept the Professor- ship of Poetry?'
`Why, such an offer would require consideration,' re- plied the
landlord. `Professor Hugh Crombie, of Har- ley College; -- it has a
good sound, assuredly. But I am a public man, Master Walcott, and the
public would be loath to spare me from my present office.'
`Will Professor Crombie favor us with a specimen of his
productions?' inquired Edward.
`Ahem, I shall be happy to gratify you, young gentle- man,'
answered Hugh. `It is seldom, in this rude coun- try, Master Walcott,
that we meet with kindred genius; and the opportunity should never be
Thus saying, he took a heavy draught of the liquor by which he was
usually inspired, and the praises of which were the prevailing subject
of his song. Then, after much hemming, thrumming, and prelusion, and
with ma- ny queer gestures and gesticulations, he began to effuse a
lyric, in the following fashion. I've been a jolly drinker, this five
and twenty year, And still a jolly drinker, my friends, you see me
here; I sing the joys of drinking; -- bear a chorus every man, With
pint pot, and quart pot, and clattering of can.
The sense of the Professor's first stanza, was not in exact
proportion to the sound; but being executed with great spirit, it
attracted universal applause. This, Hugh appropriated with a
condescending bow and smile; and making a signal for silence, he went
on -- King Solomon of old, boys, (a jolly king was he,) --
But here he was interrupted by a clapping of hands, that seemed a
continuance of the applause bestowed on his former stanza. Hugh
Crombie, who, as is the custom of many great performers, usually sang
with his eyes shut, now opened them, intending gently to rebuke his
auditors for their unseasonable expression of delight. He immediately
perceived, however, that the fault was to be attributed to neither of
the three young men; and following the direction of their eyes, he
saw, near the door, in the dim back-ground of the apartment, a figure
in a cloak. The hat was flapped forward, the cloak muffled round the
lower part of the face, and only the eyes were visible.
The party gazed a moment in silence, and then rush- ed en masse
upon the intruder, the landlord bringing up the rear, and sounding a
charge upon his fiddle. But as they drew nigh, the black cloak began
to assume a fa- miliar look, -- the hat, also, was an old
acquaintance; -- and these being removed, from beneath them shone
forth the reverend face and form of Doctor Melmoth.
The President, in his quality of clergyman, had, late in the
preceding afternoon, been called to visit an aged fe- male, who was
supposed to be at the point of death. Her habitation was at the
distance of several miles from Harley College; so that it was
night-fall before Doctor Melmoth stood at her bed-side. His stay had
been lengthened beyond his anticipation, on account of the frame of
mind in which he found the dying woman; and after essaying to impart
the comforts of religion to her disturbed intellect, he had waited for
the abatement of the storm, that had arisen while he was thus engaged.
As the evening advanced, however, the rain poured down in
undiminished cataracts; and the Doctor, trusting to the prudence, and
sure-footedness of his steed, had, at length, set forth on his return.
The darkness of the night, and the roughness of the road, might have
appall- ed him, even had his horsemanship and his courage been more
considerable than they were; but by the special protection of
Providence, as he reasonably supposed, (for he was a good man, and on
a good errand,) he arrived safely as far as Hugh Crombie's inn. --
Doctor Melmoth had no intention of making a stay there; but as the
road passed within a very short dis- tance, he saw lights in the
windows, and heard the sound of song and revelry. It immediately
occurred to him, that these midnight rioters were, probably, some of
the young men of his charge, and he was impelled, by a sense of duty,
to enter and disperse them. Directed by the voices, he found his way,
with some difficulty, to the apartment, just as Hugh concluded his
first stanza, and amidst the subsequent applause, his entrance had
been un- perceived.
There was a silence of a moment's continuance, after the discovery
of Dr. Melmoth, during which he attempt- ed to clothe his round,
good-natured face, in a look of awful dignity. But, in spite of
himself, there was a little twisting of the corners of his mouth, and
a smothered gleam in his eye.
`This has apparently been a very merry meeting, young gentlemen,'
he at length said; `but I fear my presence has cast a damp upon it.'
`Oh, yes! your Reverence's cloak is wet enough to cast a damp upon
anything,' exclaimed Hugh Crombie, assuming a look of tender anxiety.
`The young gentle- men are affrighted for your valuable life. Fear de-
prives them of utterance; permit me to relieve you of these dangerous
`Trouble not yourself, honest man,' replied the Doc- tor, who was
one of the most gullible of mortals. `I trust I am in no danger, my
dwelling being near at hand. But for these young men -- '
`Would your reverence but honor my Sunday suit -- the gray
broadcloth coat, and the black velvet small- clothes, that have
covered my unworthy legs but once? Dame Crombie shall have them ready
in a moment,' con- tinued Hugh, beginning to divest the Doctor of his
`I pray you to appease your anxiety,' cried Doctor Melmoth,
retaining a firm hold on such parts of his dress as yet remained to
him. `Fear not for my health. I will but speak a word to those
misguided youth, and be- gone.'
`Misguided youth, did your reverence say?' echoed Hugh, in a tone
of utter astonishment. `Never were they better guided, than when they
entered my poor house. Oh! had your reverence but seen them, when I
heard their cries, and rushed forth to their assistance. Dripping
with wet were they, like three drowned men at the resurrec -- ahem!'
interrupted Hugh, recollecting that the comparison he meditated might
not suit the Doctor's ideas of propriety.
`But why were they abroad on such a night?' inquired the
`Ah! doctor, you little know the love these good young gentlemen
bear for you,' replied the landlord. `Your absence -- your long
absence -- had alarmed them; and they rushed forth through the rain
and darkness to seek you.'
`And was this indeed so?' asked the doctor in a soft- ened tone,
and casting a tender and grateful look upon the three students. They,
it is but justice to mention, had simultaneously made a step forward,
in order to con- tradict the egregious falsehoods, of which Hugh's
fancy was so fertile; but he assumed an expression of such lu-
dicrous entreaty, that it was irresistible.
`But methinks their anxiety was not of long continu- ance,'
observed doctor Melmoth, looking at the wine, and remembering the song
that his entrance had inter- rupted.
`Ah! your reverence disapproves of the wine, I see,' answered Hugh
Crombie. `I did but offer them a drop, to keep the life in their poor
young hearts. My dame advised strong waters; but, dame Crombie, says
I, would ye corrupt their youth? And in my zeal for their good,
doctor, I was delighting them, just at your entrance, with a pious
little melody of my own, against the sin of drunkenness.'
`Truly, I remember something of the kind,' observed doctor
Melmoth; `and, as I think, it seemed to meet with good acceptance.'
`Aye, that it did,' said the landlord. `Will it please your
reverence to hear it?'
King Solomon of old, boys, (a wise man I'm thinking,) Has warned
you to beware of the horrid vice of drinking -- " But why I talk of
drinking, foolish man that I am! and all this time, doctor, you have
not sipped a drop of my wine. Now, I entreat your reverence, as you
value your health, and the peace and quiet of these youth.'
Doctor Melmoth drank a glass of wine, with the be- nevolent
intention of allaying the anxiety of Hugh Crom- bie and the students.
He then prepared to depart; for a strong wind had partially dispersed
the clouds, and occa- sioned an interval in the cataract of rain.
There was, perhaps, a little suspicion yet remaining in the good man's
mind, respecting the truth of the landlord's story; -- at least, it
was his evident intention, to see the students fairly out of the inn,
before he quitted it himself. They therefore proceeded along the
passage way in a body. -- The lamp that Hugh Crombie held, but dimly
enlightened them, and the number and contiguity of the doors, caused
doctor Melmoth to lay his hand upon the wrong one.
`Not there, not there, doctor! It is dame Crombie's bed-chamber,'
shouted Hugh, most energetically. `Now Belzebub defend me,' he
muttered to himself, perceiving that his exclamation had been a moment
`Heavens! what do I see?' ejaculated doctor Mel- moth, lifting his
hands, and starting back from the en- trance of the room. The three
students pressed forward; -- Mrs. Crombie and the servant girl had
been drawn to the spot, by the sound of Hugh's voice; and all their
wondering eyes were fixed on poor Ellen Langton.
The apartment, in the midst of which she stood, was dimly lighted
by a solitary candle, at the farther extremi- ty; but Ellen was
exposed to the glare of the three lamps, held by Hugh, his wife, and
the servant girl. Their combined rays seemed to form a focus exactly
at the point where they reached her; and the beholders, had any been
sufficiently calm, might have watched her features, in their agitated
workings, and frequent change of expression, as perfectly as by the
broad light of day. Terror had at first blanched her as white as a
lily, or as a marble statue, which for a moment she resembled, as she
stood motionless in the centre of the room. Shame next bore sway; and
her blushing countenance, cover- ed by her slender white fingers,
might fantastically be compared to a variegated rose, with its
alternate stripes of white and red. The next instant, a sense of her
pure and innocent intentions gave her strength and courage; and her
attitude and look had now something of pride and dignity. These,
however, in their turn gave way; for Edward Walcott pressed forward,
and attempted to address her.
`Ellen, Ellen,' he said in an agitated and quivering whisper; --
but what was to follow cannot be known, for his emotion checked his
utterance. His tone, and look, however, again overcame Ellen Langton,
and she burst to tears. Fanshawe advanced and took Edward's arm; `she
has been deceived,' he whispered -- `she is inno- cent. You are
unworthy of her if you doubt it.'
`Why do you interfere, Sir?' demanded Edward, whose passions,
thoroughly excited, would willingly have wreaked themselves on any
one. `What right have you to speak of her innocence? Perhaps,' he
continued, an undefined and ridiculous suspicion arising in his mind,
`perhaps you are acquainted with her intentions. Per- haps you are
Fanshawe's temper was not naturally of the meekest character; and
having had a thousand bitter feelings of his own to overcome, before
he could attempt to console Edward, this rude repulse had almost
aroused him to fierceness. But his pride, of which a more moderate
degree would have had a less peaceable effect, came to his
assistance, and he turned calmly and contemptuously away.
Ellen, in the meantime, had been restored to some de- gree of
composure. To this effect, a feeling of pique against Edward Walcott
had contributed. She had dis- tinguished his voice in the neighbouring
apartment, -- had heard his mirth and wild laughter, without being
aware of the state of feeling that produced them. She had sup- posed
that the terms on which they parted in the morn- ing, (which had been
very grievous to herself,) would have produced a corresponding sadness
in him. But while she sat in loneliness and in tears, her bosom dis-
tracted by a thousand anxieties and sorrows, of many of which Edward
was the object, his reckless gaiety had seemed to prove the slight
regard in which he held her. After the first outbreak of emotion,
therefore, she called up her pride (of which, on proper occasions, she
had a reasonable share,) and sustained his upbraiding glance with a
passive composure, which women have more read- ily at command than
Doctor Melmoth's surprise had, during this time, kept him silent
and inactive. He gazed alternately from one to another, of those who
stood around him, as if to seek some explanation of so strange an
event. But the faces of all were as perplexed as his own; -- even Hugh
Crombie had assumed a look of speechless wonder, -- speechless, be-
cause his imagination, prolific as it was, could not sup- ply a
`Ellen, dearest child,' at length said the doctor, `what is the
meaning of this?'
Ellen endeavored to reply; but, as her composure was merely
external, she was unable to render her words audible. Fanshawe spoke
in a low voice to doc- tor Melmoth, who appeared grateful for his
`True, it will be the better way,' he replied. `My wits are
utterly confounded, or I should not have remain- ed thus long. Come,
my dear child,' he continued, ad- vancing to Ellen, and taking her
hand, `let us return home, and defer the explanation till the morrow.
There, there; only dry your eyes, and we will say no more about it.'
`And that will be your wisest way, old gentleman,' muttered Hugh
Ellen at first exhibited but little desire -- or, rather, an
evident reluctance -- to accompany her guardian. She hung back, while
her glance passed almost imperceptibly over the faces that gazed so
eagerly at her; but the one she sought was not visible among them. She
had no alternative, and suffered herself to be led from the inn.
Edward Walcott, alone, remained behind, -- the most wretched
being, (at least such was his own opinion,) that breathed the vital
air. He felt a sinking and sickness of the heart, and alternately a
feverish frenzy, neither of which his short and cloudless existence
had heretofore occasioned him to experience. He was jealous of, he
knew not whom, and he knew not what. He was un- generous enough to
believe that Ellen -- his pure and lovely Ellen -- had degraded
herself; though from what motive, or by whose agency, he could not
conjecture. When doctor Melmoth had taken her in charge, Edward
returned to the apartment where he had spent the even- ing. The wine
was still upon the table, and in the des- perate hope of stupifying
his faculties, he unwisely swallowed huge successive draughts. The
effect of his imprudence was not long in manifesting itself; though
in- sensibility, which at another time would have been the result,
did not now follow. Acting upon his previous ag- itation, the wine
seemed to set his blood in a flame; and for the time being, he was a
A phrenologist would probably have found the organ of
destructiveness in strong developement, just then, up- on Edward's
cranium; for he certainly manifested an impulse to break and destroy
whatever chanced to be within his reach. He commenced his operations
by up- setting the table and breaking the bottles and glasses. Then,
seizing a tall heavy chair in each hand, he hurled them, with
prodigious force, one through the window, and the other against a
large looking-glass, the most valua- ble article of furniture in Hugh
Crombie's inn. The crash and clatter of these outrageous proceedings,
soon brought the master, mistress, and maid-servant to the scene of
action; but the two latter, at the first sight of Edward's wild
demeanor and gleaming eyes, retreat- ed with all imaginable
expedition. Hugh chose a posi- tion behind the door, from whence
protruding his head, he endeavored to mollify his inebriated guest.
His inter- ference, however, had nearly been productive of most
unfortunate consequences; for a massive andiron, with round brazen
head, whizzed past him, within a hair's breadth of his ear.
`I might as safely take my chance in a battle,' ex- claimed Hugh,
withdrawing his head, and speaking to a man who stood in the passage
way. `A little twist of his hand to the left would have served my
turn, as well as if I stood in the path of a forty-two pound ball. And
here comes another broadside,' he added, as some other arti- cle of
furniture rattled against the door.
`Let us return his fire, Hugh, said the person whom he addressed,
composedly lifting the andiron. `He is in want of ammunition; let us
send him back his own.'
The sound of this man's voice produced a most singu- lar effect
upon Edward. The moment before, his actions had been those of a raving
maniac; but when the words struck his ear, he paused, put his hand to
his forehead, seemed to recollect himself, and finally advanced with a
firm and steady step. His countenance was dark and angry, but no
`I have found you, villain,' he said to the angler. `It is you who
have done this.'
`And having done it, the wrath of a boy -- his drunken wrath --
will not induce me to deny it,' replied the other scornfully.
`The boy will require a man's satisfaction,' returned Edward; --
`and that speedily.'
`Will you take it now?' inquired the angler, with a cool, derisive
smile, and almost in a whisper. At the same time he produced a brace
of pistols, and held them towards the young man.
`Willingly,' answered Edward, taking one of the wea- pons. `Choose
The angler stepped back a pace; but before their deadly
intentions, so suddenly conceived, could be execu- ted, Hugh Crombie
interposed himself between them.
`Do you take my best parlour for the cabin of the Black Andrew,
where a pistol shot was a nightly pas- time?' he inquired of his
comrade. `And you, master Edward, with what sort of a face will you
walk into the chapel, to morning prayers, after putting a ball through
this man's head, or receiving one through your own? -- Though in this
last case, you will be past praying for, or praying, either.'
`Stand aside, -- I will take the risk. Make way, or I will put the
ball through your own head,' exclaimed Ed- ward, fiercely; for the
interval of rationality, that cir- cumstances had produced, was again
giving way to intox- ication.
`You see how it is,' said Hugh to his companion, un- heard by
Edward. `You shall take a shot at me, sooner than at the poor lad in
his present state. You have done him harm enough already, and intend
him more. I pro- pose,' he continued aloud, and with a peculiar glance
to- wards the angler, `that this affair be decided to-morrow, at nine
o'clock, under the old oak, on the bank of the stream. In the meantime
I will take charge of these pop-guns, for fear of accidents.'
`Well, mine host, be it as you wish,' said his comrade. A shot,
more or less, is of little consequence to me.' He accordingly
delivered his weapon to Hugh Crombie, and walked carelessly away.
`Come, master Walcott, the enemy has retreated. Victoria! And now,
I see, the sooner I get you to your chamber, the better,' added he
aside; for the wine was at last beginning to produce its legitimate
effect, in stu- pifying the young man's mental and bodily faculties.
Hugh Crombie's assistance, though not perhaps quite indispensable,
was certainly very convenient to our unfor- tunate hero, in the course
of the short walk that brought him to his chamber. When arrived there,
and in bed, he was soon locked in a sleep, scarcely less deep than
that of death.
The weather, during the last hour, had appeared to be on the point
of changing; -- indeed, there were every few minutes, most rapid
changes. A strong breeze some- times drove the clouds from the brow of
heaven, so as to disclose a few of the stars; but, immediately after,
the darkness would again become Egyptian, and the rain rush like a
torrent from the sky.
About her neck a packet-mail
Fraught with advice, some fresh, some stale,
Of men that walked when they were dead.
Scarcely a word had passed between doctor Melmoth and Ellen
Langton, on their way home; for, though the former was aware that his
duty towards his ward would compel him to inquire into the motives of
her conduct, the tenderness of his heart prompted him to defer the
scrutiny to the latest moment. The same tenderness in- duced him to
connive at Ellen's stealing secretly up to her chamber, unseen by Mrs.
Melmoth; to render which measure practicable, he opened the house door
very softly, and stood before his half-sleeping spouse, (who waited
his arrival in the parlor,) without any previous no- tice. This act of
the doctor's benevolence was not des- titute of heroism; for he was
well assured, that, should the affair come to the lady's knowledge
through any oth- er channel, her vengeance would descend not less
heav- ily on him for concealing, than on Ellen for perpetrating the
elopement. That she had, thus far, no suspicion of the fact, was
evident from her composure, as well as from the reply to a question,
which, with more than his usual art, her husband put to her respecting
the non-appear- ance of his ward. Mrs. Melmoth answered that Ellen
had complained of indisposition, and, after drinking, by her
prescription, a large cup of herb-tea, had retired to her chamber,
early in the evening. Thankful that all was yet safe, the doctor laid
his head upon his pillow; but, late as was the hour, his many anxious
thoughts long drove sleep from his eyelids.
The diminution in the quantity of his natural rest, did not,
however, prevent doctor Melmoth from rising at his usual hour, which,
at all seasons of the year, was an ear- ly one. He found, on
descending to the parlor, that breakfast was nearly in readiness; for
the lady of the house, (and, as a corollary, her servant girl,) was
not accustomed to await the rising of the sun, in order to commence
her domestic labors. Ellen Langton, howev- er, who had heretofore
assimilated her habits to those of the family, was this morning
invisible, -- a circumstance imputed by Mrs. Melmoth to her
indisposition of the pre- ceding evening, and by the doctor to
mortification, on account of her elopement, and its discovery.
`I think I will step into Ellen's bed-chamber,' said Mrs. Melmoth,
`and inquire how she feels herself. The morning is delightful after
the storm, and the air will do her good.'
`Had we not better proceed with our breakfast? If the poor child
is sleeping, it were a pity to disturb her,' observed the doctor; for,
besides his sympathy with El- len's feelings, he was reluctant, as if
he were the guilty one, to meet her face.
`Well, be it so. And now sit down, doctor, for the hot cakes are
cooling fast. I suppose you will say they are not so good as those
Ellen made, yesterday morning. I know not how you will bear to part
with her; though the thing must soon be.'
`It will be a sore trial, doubtless,' replied doctor Mel- moth --
`like tearing away a branch that is grafted on an old tree. And yet
there will be a satisfaction in deliver- ing her safe into her
`A satisfaction for which you may thank me, doctor,' observed the
lady, `If there had been none but you to look after the poor thing's
doings, she would have been enticed away long ere this, for the sake
of her money.'
Doctor Melmoth's prudence could scarcely restrain a smile at the
thought, that an elopement, as he had reason to believe, had been
plotted, and partly carried into exe- cution, while Ellen was under
the sole care of his lady; and had been frustrated only by his own
despised agen- cy. He was not accustomed, however, -- nor was this an
eligible occasion, -- to dispute any of Mrs. Melmoth's claims to
The breakfast proceeded in silence, -- or, at least, with- out any
conversation material to the tale. At its con- clusion, Mrs. Melmoth
was again meditating on the pro- priety of entering Ellen's chamber;
but she was now prevented by an incident, that always excited much in-
terest both in herself and her husband.
This was the entrance of the servant, bearing the let- ters and
newspaper, with which, once a fortnight, the mail-carrier journeyed up
the valley. Doctor Melmoth's situation, at the head of a respectable
seminary, and his character, as a scholar, had procured him an
extensive correspondence among the learned men of his own coun- try;
and he had even exchanged epistles with one or two of the most
distinguished dissenting clergymen of Great Britain. But, unless when
some fond mother en- closed a one pound note, to defray the private
expenses of her son at College -- it was frequently the case, that
the packets addressed to the doctor, were the sole con- tents of the
mail bag. In the present instance, his let- ters were very numerous,
and, to judge from the one he chanced first to open, of an
unconscienable length. While he was engaged in their perusal, Mrs.
Melmoth amused herself with the newspaper, -- a little sheet of about
twelve inches square, which had but one rival in the country. --
Commencing with the title, she labored on, through ad- vertisements,
old and new, through poetry, lamentably deficient in rhythm and rhymes
-- through essays, the ideas of which had been trite since the first
week of the crea- tion; -- till she finally arrived at the department
that, a fortnight before, had contained the latest news from all
quarters. Making such remarks upon these items as to her seemed good,
the dame's notice was at length attrac- ted by an article, which her
sudden exclamation proved to possess uncommon interest. Casting her
eye hastily over it, she immediately began to read aloud to her hus-
band; but he, deeply engaged in a long and learned let- ter, instead
of listening to what she wished to communi- cate, exerted his own
lungs in opposition to hers, -- as is the custom of abstracted men,
when disturbed. The result was as follows.
`A brig just arrived in the outer harbor,' began Mrs. Melmoth,
`reports, that on the morning of the 25th ult.' -- here the doctor
broke in, `wherefore I am compelled to differ from your exposition of
the said passage, for those reasons, of the which I have given you a
taste; provided' -- the lady's voice was now most audible -- `ship
bottom upward, discovered by the name on her stern to be the Ellen
of' -- `and in the same opinion are Hooker, Cotton, and divers learned
divines of a later date.'
The doctor's lungs were deep and strong, and victory seemed to
incline toward him; but Mrs. Melmoth now made use of a tone, whose
peculiar shrillness, as long experience had taught her husband, argued
a mood of mind not to be trifled with.
`On my word doctor,' she exclaimed, `this is most un- feeling and
unchristian conduct! Here am I, endeav- oring to inform you of the
death of an old friend, and you continue as deaf as a post.'
Doctor Melmoth, who had heard the sound, without re- ceiving the
sense, of these words, now laid aside the let- ter in despair, and
submissively requested to be informed of her pleasure.
`There, -- read for yourself,' she replied, handing him the paper,
and pointing to the passage containing the im- portant intelligence.
`Read, and then finish your letter, if you have a mind.'
`He took the paper, unable to conjecture how the dame could be so
much interested in any part of its con- tents; but, before he had read
many words, he grew pale as death. `Good heavens, what is this?' he
exclaimed. He then read on, `being the vessel wherein that emi- nent
son of New-England, John Langton, Esquire, had taken passage for his
native country, after an absence of many years.'
`Our poor Ellen, his orphan child!' said doctor Mel- moth,
dropping the paper. `How shall we break the in- telligence to her?
Alas! her share of the affliction causes me to forget my own.'
`It is a heavy misfortune, doubtless, and Ellen will grieve as a
daughter should,' replied Mrs. Melmoth, speaking with the good sense
of which she had a com- petent share. `But she has never known her
father, and her sorrow must arise from a sense of duty, more than
from strong affection. I will go and inform her of her loss. It is
late, and I wonder if she be still asleep?'
`Be cautious, dearest wife,' said the doctor -- `Ellen has strong
feelings, and a sudden shock might be dan- gerous.'
`I think I may be trusted, doctor Melmoth,' replied the lady, who
had a high opinion of her own abilities as a comforter, and was not
averse to exercise them.
Her husband, after her departure, sat listlessly turning over the
letters, that yet remained unopened, feeling lit- tle curiosity, after
such melancholy intelligence, respect- ing their contents. But by the
hand writing of the di- rection on one of them, his attention was
gradually ar- rested, till he found himself gazing earnestly on those
strong, firm, regular characters. They were perfectly familiar to his
eye; but from what hand they came, he could not conjecture. Suddenly,
however, the truth burst upon him; and, after noticing the date, and
read- ing a few lines, he rushed hastily in pursuit of his wife. He
had arrived at the top of his speed, and at the mid- dle of the
stair-case, when his course was arrested by the lady whom he sought,
who came, with a velocity equal to his own, in an opposite direction.
The consequence was, a concussion between the two meeting masses, by
which Mrs. Melmoth was seated securely on the stairs, while the
doctor was only preserved from precipitation to the bottom, by
clinging desperately to the balustrade. As soon as the pair discovered
that they had sustained no material injury by their contact, they
began eagerly to explain the cause of their mutual haste, without
those reproaches, which, on the lady's part, would, at another time,
have followed such an accident.
`You have not told her the bad news, I trust?' cried doctor
Melmoth, after each had communicated his and her intelligence, without
obtaining audience of the other.
`Would you have me tell it to the bare walls?' in- quired the
lady, in her shrillest tone. `Have I not just informed you that she
has gone, fled, eloped? Her chamber is empty, and her bed has not been
`Gone!' repeated the doctor -- `and when her father comes to
demand his daughter of me, what answer shall I make?'
`Now, heaven defend us from the visits of the dead and drowned!'
cried Mrs. Melmoth. `This is a serious affair, doctor; but not, I
trust, sufficient to raise a ghost.'
`Mr. Langton is yet no ghost,' answered he; `though this event
will go near to make him one. He was fortu- nately prevented, after he
had made every preparation, from taking passage in the vessel that was
`And where is he now,' she inquired.
`He is in New England. Perhaps he is at this mo- ment, on his way
to us,' replied her husband. `His letter is dated nearly a fortnight
back, and he expresses an in- tention of being with us in a few days.'
`Well, I thank heaven for his safety,' said Mrs. Mel- moth; `but
truly, the poor gentleman could not have chosen a better time to be
drowned, nor a worse one to come to life, than this. What we shall do,
doctor, I know not; but, had you locked the doors, and fastened the
windows, as I advised, the misfortune could not have happened.'
`Why, the whole country would have flouted us,' an- swered the
doctor. `Is there a door in all the province, that is barred or
bolted, night or day? Nevertheless, it might have been advisable last
night, had it occurred to me.'
`And why at that time, more than at all times?' she in- quired.
`We had surely no reason to fear this event.'
Doctor Melmoth was silent; for his worldly wisdom was sufficient
to deter him from giving his lady the oppor- tunity, which she would
not fail to use to the utmost, of lay- ing the blame of the elopement
at his door. He now pro- ceeded, with a heavy heart, to Ellen's
chamber, to satis- fy himself with his own eyes, of the state of
affairs. It was deserted, too truly; and the wild flowers with which
it was the maiden's custom, daily, to decorate her prem- ises, were
drooping, as if in sorrow, for her who had placed them there. Mrs.
Melmoth, on this second visit, discovered on the table a note,
addressed to her hus- band, and containing a few words of gratitude
from El- len, but no explanation of her mysterious flight. The doctor
gazed long on the tiny letters, which had evident- ly been traced with
a trembling hand, and blotted with many tears.
`There is a mystery in this -- a mystery that I cannot fathom,' he
said. `And now, I would I knew what measures it would be proper to
`Get you on horseback, doctor Melmoth, and proceed as speedily as
may be, down the valley to the town,' said the dame, the influence of
whose firmer mind was some- times, as in the present case, most
beneficially exerted over his own. `You must not spare for trouble --
no, nor for danger -- now, oh! if I were a man -- '
`Oh that you were,' murmured the doctor, in a perfect- ly
inaudible voice. `Well, and when I reach the town, what then?'
`As I am a christian woman, my patience cannot en- dure you,'
exclaimed Mrs. Melmoth -- `oh, I love to see a man with the spirit of
a man; but you -- ' and she turned away in utter scorn.
`But, dearest wife,' remonstrated the husband, who was really at a
loss how to proceed, and anxious for her advice, `your worldly
experience is greater than mine, and I desire to profit by it. What
should be my next measure, after arriving at the town?"
Mrs. Melmoth was appeased by the submission with which the doctor
asked her counsel; though, if the truth must be told, she heartily
despised him for needing it. She condescended, however, to instruct
him in the proper method of pursuing the runaway maiden, and di-
rected him, before his departure, to put strict inquiries to Hugh
Crombie, respecting any stranger who might late- ly have visited his
inn. That there would be wisdom in this, doctor Melmoth had his own
reasons for believing; and, still without imparting them to his lady,
he proceed- ed to do as he had been bid.
The veracious landlord acknowledged that a stranger had spent a
night and day at his inn, and was miss- ing that morning; but he
utterly denied all acquaint- ance with his character, or privity to
his purposes. Had Mrs. Melmoth, instead of her husband, conducted the
ex- amination, the result might have been different. As the case was,
the doctor returned to his dwelling but little wiser than he went
forth; and, ordering his steed to be saddled, he began a journey, of
which he knew not what would be the end.
In the meantime, the intelligence of Ellen's disappear- ance
circulated rapidly, and soon sent forth hunters more fit to follow the
chase than doctor Melmoth.
"There was racing and chacing o'er Cannobie Lee."
When Edward Walcott awoke, the next morning, from his deep
slumber, his first consciousness was, of a heavy weight upon his mind,
the cause of which, he was unable, immediately, to recollect. One by
one, how- ever, by means of the association of ideas, the events of
the preceding night came back to his memory; though those of latest
occurrence were dim as dreams. But one circumstance was only too well
remembered -- the discovery of Ellen Langton. By a strong effort, he
next attained to an uncertain recollection, of a scene of madness and
violence, followed, as he at first thought, by a duel. A little
farther reflection, however, inform- ed him that this event was yet
among the things of fu- turity; but he could by no means recall the
appointed time or place. As he had not the slightest intention
(praiseworthy and prudent as it would unquestionably have been) to
give up the chance of avenging Ellen's wrongs, and his own. He
immediately arose and began to dress, meaning to learn from Hugh
Crombie those particulars which his own memory had not retained. His
chief apprehension was, that the appointed time had already elapsed;
for the early sun-beams of a glo- rious morning were now peeping into
More than once, during the progress of dressing, he was inclined
to believe, that the duel had actually taken place, and been fatal to
him, and that he was now in those regions, to which, his conscience
told him, such an event would be likely to send him. This idea re-
sulted from his bodily sensations, which were in the highest degree
uncomfortable. He was tormented by a raging thirst, that seemed to
have absorbed all the moisture of his throat and stomach; and in his
present agitation, a cup of icy water would have been his first wish,
had all the treasures of earth and sea been at his command. His head,
too, throbbed almost to bursting, and the whirl of his brain, at every
movement, promised little accuracy in the aim of his pistol when he
should meet the angler. These feelings, together with the deep
degradation of his mind, made him resolve that no cir- cumstances
should again, draw him into an excess of wine. In the meantime, his
head was perhaps still too much confused to allow him fully to realize
his unpleas- ant situation.
Before Edward was prepared to leave his chamber, the door was
opened by one of the College bed-makers, who, perceiving that he was
nearly dressed, entered and began to set the apartment in order. There
were two of these officials pertaining to Harley College; each of
them being, and for obvious reasons this was an in- dispensable
qualification, a model of perfect ugliness in her own way. One was a
tall, raw-boned, huge-jointed, double-fisted giantess, admirably
fitted to sustain the part of Gleardallen, in the tragedy of Tom
Thumb. Her features were as excellent as her form, appearing to have
been rough hewn with a broad axe, and left un- polished. The other was
a short, squat figure, about two thirds the height and three times the
circumference of ordinary females. Her hair was gray, her com-
plexion of a deep yellow, and her most remarkable fea- ture was a
short snub nose, just discernible amid the broad immensity of her
face. This latter lady was she who now entered Edward's chamber.
Notwithstanding her deficiency in personal attractions, she was rather
a favorite of the students, being good natured, anxious for their
comfort, and, when duly encouraged, very communicative. Edward
perceived, as soon as she ap- peared, that she only waited his
assistance in order to disburden herself of some extraordinary
information; and more from compassion than curiosity, he began to
`Well, Dolly, what news this morning?'
`Why, let me see, -- oh, yes. It had almost slipped my memory,'
replied the bed-maker. `Poor widow Butler died last night, after her
long sickness. Poor woman! I remember her forty years ago, or so, as
rosy a lass as you could set eyes on.'
`Ah! Has she gone?' said Edward, recollecting the sick woman of
the cottage, which he had entered with Ellen and Fanshawe. `Was she
not out of her right mind, Dolly?'
`Yes; this seven years,' she answered. `They say she came to her
senses, a bit, when Doctor Melmoth visited her yesterday, but was
raving mad when she died. Ah! That son of hers, if he is yet alive. --
`She had a son, then?' inquired Edward.
`Yes, such as he was. The Lord preserve me from such a one,' said
Dolly. `It was thought he went off with Hugh Crombie, that keeps the
tavern now. That was fifteen years ago.'
`And have they heard nothing of him since?' asked Edward.'
`Nothing good, nothing good,' said the bed-maker. `Stories did
travel up the valley, now and then; but for five years there has been
no word of him. They say Merchant Langton, Ellen's father, met him in
foreign parts and would have made a man of him; but there was too
much of the wicked one in him for that. Well, poor woman! I wonder
who'll preach her funeral ser- mon.'
`Doctor Melmoth, probably,' observed the student.
`No, no; the Doctor will never finish his journey in time. And who
knows but his own funeral will be the end of it,' said Dolly with a
sagacious shake of her head.
`Doctor Melmoth gone a journey!' repeated Edward, `What do you
mean? For what purpose?'
`For a good purpose enough, I may say,' replied she. `To search
out Miss Ellen, that was run away with, last night.'
`In the devil's name, woman, of what are you speak- ing?' shouted
Edward, seizing the affrighted bed-ma- ker forcibly by the arm.
Poor Dolly had chosen this circuitous method of com- municating
her intelligence, because she was well aware, that, if she first told
of Ellen's flight, she should find no ear for her account of the widow
Butler's death. She had not calculated, however, that the news would
pro- duce so violent an effect upon her auditor; and her voice
faltered as she recounted what she knew of the affair. She had hardly
concluded, before Edward, who as she proceeded, had been making hasty
preparations, rushed from his chamber, and took the way towards Hugh
Crombie's Inn. He had no difficulty in finding the Landlord; who had
already occupied his accustom- ed seat, and was smoking his accustomed
pipe, under the elm tree.
`Well, Master Walcott, you have come to take a stomach reliever,
this morning, I suppose,' said Hugh, taking the pipe from his mouth.
`What shall it be? a bumper of wine with an egg? -- or a glass of
smooth, old, oily brandy, such as dame Crombie and I keep for our own
drinking? Come, that will do it, I know.'
`No, no; -- neither;' replied Edward, shuddering, in- voluntarily,
at the bare mention of wine and strong drink. `You know well, Hugh
Crombie, the errand on which I come.'
`Well, perhaps I do,' said the landlord. You come to order me to
saddle my best horse. You are for a ride, this fine morning.'
`True, and I must learn of you in what direction to turn my
horse's head,' replied Edward Walcott.
`I understand you,' said Hugh, nodding and smiling. `And now,
Master Edward, I really have taken a strong liking to you; and if you
please to hearken to it, you shall have some of my best advice.'
`Speak,' said the young man, expecting to be told in what
direction to pursue the chase.
`I advise you, then,' continued Hugh Crombie, in a tone, in which
some real feeling mingled with assumed carelessness, -- `I advise you
to forget that you have ever known this girl, -- that she has ever
existed; for she is as much lost to you, as if she never had been
born, or as if the grave had covered her. Come, come, man; -- toss
off a quart of my old wine, and keep up a merry heart. This has been
my way, in many a heavier sor- row than ever you have felt; and you
see I am alive and merry yet.' But Hugh's merriment had failed him
just as he was making his boast of it; for Edward saw a tear in the
corner of his eye.
`Forget her? Never, never!' said the student, while his heart sank
within him, at the hopelessness of pursuit, which Hugh's words
implied. `I will follow her to the ends of the earth.'
`Then so much the worse for you, and for my poor nag, -- on whose
back you shall be in three minutes,' rejoined the landlord. `I have
spoken to you as I would to my own son, if I had such an incumbrance.
Here you ragamuffin, saddle the gray and lead him round to the door.'
`The gray? I will ride the black,' said Edward, `I know your best
horse, as well as you do yourself, Hugh.'
There is no black horse in my stable, I have parted with him to an
old comrade of mine,' answered the land- lord, with a wink of
acknowledgment to what he saw were Edward's suspicions. `The gray is a
stout nag, and will carry you a round pace, though not so fast as to
bring you up with them you seek. I reserved him for you, and put Mr.
Fanshawe off with the old white, on which I travelled hitherward, a
year or two since.'
`Fanshawe? Has he then the start of me?' asked Edward.
`He rode off about twenty minutes ago,' replied Hugh; but you will
overtake him within ten miles, at farthest. But if mortal man could
recover the girl, that fellow would do it, -- even if he had no better
nag than a broomstick, like the witches of old times.'
`Did he obtain any information from you as to the course?'
inquired the student.
`I could give him only this much,' said Hugh, point- ing down the
road, in the direction of the town. My old comrade, trust no man
farther than is needful, and I ask no unnecessary questions.
The ostler now led up to the door the horse which Edward was to
ride. The young man mounted with all expedition; but as he was about
to apply the spurs, his thirst, which the bed-maker's intelligence had
caused him to forget, returned most powerfully upon him.
`For Heaven's sake, Hugh, a mug of your sharpest cider, -- and let
it be a large one,' he exclaimed. `My tongue rattles in my mouth like,
`Like the bones in a dice-box,' said the landlord, finishing the
comparison and hastening to obey Edward's directions. Indeed, he
rather exceeded them, by ming- ling with the juice of the apple, a
jill of his old brandy, which, his own experience told him, would at
that time have a most desirable effect upon the young man's in-
`It is powerful stuff, mine host, and I feel like a new man
already,' observed Edward, after draining the mug to the bottom.
`He is a fine lad, and sits his horse most gallantly,' said Hugh
Crombie to himself, as the student rode off, `I heartily wish him
success. I wish to Heaven my conscience had suffered me to betray the
plot before it was too late. Well, well, -- a man must keep his mite
The morning was now one of the most bright and glo- rious, that
ever shone for mortals; and, under other cir- cumstances, Edward's
bosom would have been as light, and his spirit would have sung as
cheerfully, as one of the many birds that warbled around him. The
rain-drops of the preceding night hung like glittering diamonds on
every leaf of every tree, shaken and rendered more bril- liant by
occasional sighs of wind, that removed from the traveller the
superfluous heat of an unclouded sun. In spite of the adventure, so
mysterious and vexatious, in which he was engaged, Edward's elastic
spirit (assisted perhaps by the brandy he had unwittingly swallowed)
rose higher as he rode on, and he soon found himself endeavoring to
accommodate the tune of one of Hugh Crombie's ballads to the motion
of the horse. Nor did this reviving cheerfulness argue anything
against his unwavering faith, and pure and fer- vent love for Ellen
Langton. A sorrowful and repining disposition is not the necessary
accompaniment of a `leal and loving heart;' and Edward's spirits were
cheer- ed, not by forgetfulness, but by hope, which would not permit
him to doubt of the ultimate success of his pursuit. The uncertainty
itself, and the probable danger of the expedition, were not without
their charm to a youthful and adventurous spirit. In fact, Edward
would not have been altogether satisfied to recover the errant damsel,
without first doing battle in her behalf.
He had proceeded but a few miles, before he came in sight of
Fanshawe, who had been accommodated by the landlord with a horse much
inferior to his own. The speed to which he had been put, had almost
exhausted the poor animal, whose best pace was now but little be-
yond a walk. Edward drew his bridle, as he came up with Fanshawe.
`I have been anxious to apologize,' he said to him, `for the hasty
and unjust expressions of which I made use, last evening. May I hope,
that, in consideration of my mental distraction, and the causes of it,
you will for- get what has past?'
`I had already forgotten it,' replied Fanshawe, freely offering
his hand. `I saw your disturbed state of feel- ing, and it would have
been unjust, both to you and to myself, to remember the errors it
`A wild expedition this,' observed Edward, after shaking warmly
the offered hand. `Unless we obtain some farther information at the
town, we shall hardly know which way to continue the pursuit.'
`We can scarcely fail, I think, of lighting upon some trace of
them,' said Fanshawe. `Their flight must have commenced after the
storm subsided, which would give them but a few hours the start of us.
May I beg,' he continued, noticing the superior condition of his
rival's horse, `that you will not attempt to accommodate your pace to
Edward bowed and rode on, wondering at the change which a few
months had wrought in Fanshawe's charac- ter. On this occasion,
especially, the energy of his mind had communicated itself to his
frame. The color was strong and high in his cheek, and his whole
appear- ance was that of a gallant and manly youth, whom a lady might
love, or a fool might fear. Edward had not been so slow as his
mistress in discovering the student's affection, and he could not but
acknowledge in his heart that he was a rival not to be despised, and
might yet be a successful one, if by his means Ellen Langton were
restored to her friends. This consideration caused him to spur
forward with increased ardour; but all his speed could not divest him
of the idea, that Fanshawe would finally overtake him, and attain the
object of their mutual pursuit. There was certainly no apparent ground
for this imagination; for every step of his horse increased the
advantage which Edward had gained, and he soon lost sight of his
Shortly after overtaking Fanshawe, the young man passed the lonely
cottage, formerly the residence of the Widow Butler, who now lay dead
within. He was at first inclined to alight and make inquiries
respecting the fugitives; for he observed, through the windows, the
faces of several persons, whom curiosity or some better feeling had
led to the house of mourning. Recollecting, however, that this portion
of the road must have been passed by the angler and Ellen at too early
an hour to attract notice, he forbore to waste time by a fruitless
Edward proceeded on his journey, meeting with no other noticeable
event, till, arriving at the summit of a hill, he beheld, a few
hundred yards before him, the Rev. Doctor Melmoth. The worthy
President was toiling on- ward, at a rate unexampled in the history
either of him- self or his steed, the excellence of the latter
consisting in sure-footedness, rather than rapidity. The rider look-
ed round, seemingly in some apprehension, at the sound of hoof-tramps
behind him, but was unable to conceal his satisfaction on recognising
In the whole course of his life, Doctor Melmoth had never been
placed in circumstances so embarrassing as the present. He was
altogether a child in the ways of the world, having spent his youth
and early manhood in abstracted study, and his maturity in the
solitude of these hills. The expedition, therefore, on which fate had
now thrust him, was an entire deviation from the quiet path- way of
all his former years, and he felt like one who sets forth over the
broad ocean, without chart or compass. The affair would undoubtedly
have been perplexing to a man of far more experience than he; but the
Doctor pictured to himself a thousand difficulties and dangers,
which, except in his imagination, had no existence. The perturbation
of his spirit had compelled him, more than once since his departure,
to regret that he had not invi- ted Mrs. Melmoth to a share in the
adventure; this be- ing an occasion where her firmness, decision, and
confi- dent sagacity -- which made her a sort of domestic hedge- hog
-- would have been peculiarly appropriate. In the absence of such a
counsellor, even Edward Walcott -- young as he was, and indiscreet as
the Doctor thought him -- was a substitute not to be despised; and it
was singular and rather ludicrous to observe how the grey- haired man
unconsciously became as a child to the beardless youth. He addressed
Edward with an as- sumption of dignity, through which his pleasure at
the meeting was very obvious.
`Young gentleman, this is not well,' he said. `By what authority
have you absented yourself from the walls of Alma Mater, during
`I conceived that it was unnecessary to ask leave, at such a
conjuncture, and when the head of the institution was himself in the
saddle,' replied Edward.
`It was a fault, it was a fault,' said Doctor Melmoth, shaking his
head; `but, in consideration of the motive, I may pass it over. And
now, my dear Edward, I advise that we continue our journey together,
as your youth and inexperience will stand in need of the wisdom of my
grey head. Nay, I pray you, lay not the lash to your steed. You have
ridden fast and far, and a slower pace is requisite for a season.'
And, in order to keep up with his young companion, the Doctor
smote his own grey nag; which unhappy beast, wondering what strange
concatenation of events had procured him such treatment, endeavoured
to obey his master's wishes. Edward had sufficient compassion for
Doctor Melmoth (especially as his own horse now exhibited signs of
weariness) to moderate his pace to one attainable by the former.
`Alas, youth! These are strange times,' observed the President,
`when a Doctor of Divinity and an under graduate set forth, like a
knight-errant and his squire, in search of a stray damsel. Methinks I
am an epitome of the church militant, or a new species of polemical
di- vinity. Pray Heaven, however, there be no encounter in store for
us: for I utterly forgot to provide myself with weapons.'
`I took some thought for that matter, reverend knight,' replied
Edward, whose imagination was highly tickled by Dr. Melmoth's
`Ay, I see that you have girded on a sword,' said the Divine. `But
wherewith shall I defend myself? -- My hand being empty, except of
this golden-headed staff, the gift of Mr. Langton.'
`One of these, if you will accept it,' answered Ed- ward,
exhibiting a brace of pistols, `will serve to begin the conflict,
before you join the battle hand to hand.'
`Nay, I shall find little safety in meddling with that deadly
instrument, since I know not accurately from which end proceeds the
bullet,' said Doctor Melmoth. `But were it not better, seeing we are
so well provided with artillery, to betake ourselves, in the event of
an en- counter, to some stone wall or other place of strength?'
`If I may presume to advise,' said the squire, `you, as being most
valiant and experienced, should ride for- ward, lance in hand, (your
long staff serving for a lance) while I annoy the enemy from afar.'
`Like Teucer behind the shield of Ajax,' interrupted Doctor
Melmoth, `or David with his stone and sling. No, no, young man; I have
left unfinished in my study a learned treatise, important not only to
the present age, but to posterity, for whose sakes I must take heed to
my safety. But, lo! who ride yonder?' he exclaimed, in manifest
alarm, pointing to some horsemen upon the brow of a hill, at a short
distance before them.
`Fear not, gallant leader,' said Edward Walcott, who had already
discovered the objects of the Doctor's terror. `They are men of peace,
as we shall shortly see. The foremost is somewhere near your own
years, and rides like a grave, substantial citizen, -- though what he
does here, I know not. Behind come two servants, men likewise of
sober age and pacific appearance.'
`Truly, your eyes are better than mine own. Of a verity, you are
in the right,' acquiesced Doctor Melmoth, recovering his usual quantum
of intrepidity. `We will ride forward courageously, as those who, in a
just cause, fear neither death nor bonds.'
The reverend knight-errant and his squire, at the time of
discovering the three horsemen, were within a very short distance of
the town, which was, however, concealed from their view by the bill,
that the strangers were descending. The road from Harley College,
through almost its whole extent, had been rough and wild, and the
country thin of population; but now, stand- ing frequent amid fertile
fields on each side of the way, were neat little cottages, from which
groups of white- headed children rushed forth to gaze upon the
travellers. The three strangers, as well as the Doctor and Edward,
were surrounded, as they approached each other, by a crowd of this
kind, plying their little bare legs most per- tinaciously, in order to
keep pace with the horses.
As Edward gained a nearer view of the foremost rider, his grave
aspect and stately demeanour struck him with involuntary respect.
There were deep lines of thought across his brow, and his calm, yet
bright grey eye, be- tokened a steadfast soul. There was also an air
of con- scious importance, even in the manner in which the stranger
sat his horse, which a man's good opinion of himself, unassisted by
the concurrence of the world in general, seldom bestows. The two
servants rode at a respectable distance in the rear; and the heavy
portman- teaus at their backs intimated that the party had journey-
ed from afar. Doctor Melmoth endeavored to assume the dignity that
became him, as the head of Harley Col- lege; and with a gentle stroke
of his staff upon his wearied steed, and a grave nod to the principal
stranger, was about to commence the ascent of the hill, at the foot
of which they were. The gentleman, however, made a halt.
`Doctor Melmoth, am I so fortunate as to meet you?' he exclaimed,
in accents expressive of as much surprise and pleasure, as were
consistent with his staid demean- our. `Have you then forgotten your
`Mr. Langton! Can it be?' said the Doctor, after looking him in
the face a moment. `Yes, it is my old friend, indeed! Welcome,
welcome! Though you come at an unfortunate time.'
`What say you? How is my child? Ellen, I trust, is well?' cried
Mr. Langton; a father's anxiety overcoming the coldness and reserve
that were natural to him, or that long habit had made a second nature.
`She is well in health. She was so, at least, last night,' replied
Doctor Melmoth, unable to meet the eye of his friend. `But, -- but I
have been a careless shep- herd, and the lamb has strayed from the
fold while I slept.'
Edward Walcott, who was a deeply interested observ- er of this
scene, had anticipated that a burst of passion- ate grief would follow
the disclosure. He was, however, altogether mistaken. There was a
momentary convul- sion of Mr. Langton's strong features, as quick to
come and go as a flash of lightning; and then his countenance was as
composed -- though perhaps a little sterner -- as before. He seemed
about to inquire into the particulars of what so nearly concerned him;
but changed his pur- pose on observing the crowd of children, who,
with one or two of their parents, were endeavouring to catch the
words that passed between the Doctor and himself.
`I will turn back with you to the village,' he said, in a steady
voice; `and, at your leisure, I shall desire to hear the particulars
of this unfortunate affair.'
He wheeled his horse accordingly, and, side by side with Doctor
Melmoth, began to ascend the hill. On reaching the summit, the little
country town lay before them, presenting a cheerful and busy
spectacle. It con- sisted of one long, regular street, extending
parallel to, and at a short distance from the river; which here, en-
larged by a junction with another stream, became navi- gable, not
indeed for vessels of burthen, but for rafts of lumber and boats of
considerable size. The houses, with peaked roofs and pitting stories,
stood at wide in- tervals along the street; and the commercial
character of the place was manifested by the shop door and win- dows,
that occupied the front of almost every dwelling. One or two mansions,
however, surrounded by trees and standing back at a haughty distance
from the road, were evidently the abodes of the aristocracy of the
village. It was not difficult to distinguish the owners of these, --
self-important personages, with canes and well-powdered periwigs, --
among the crowd of meaner men, who be- stowed their attention upon
Doctor Melmoth and his friend, as they rode by. The town being the
nearest mart of a large extent of back country, there were many rough
farmers and woodsmen, to whom the cavalcade was an object of curiosity
and admiration. The former feeling, indeed, was general throughout the
village. The shop-keepers left their customers and looked forth from
the doors, -- the female portion of the community thrust their heads
from the windows, -- and the people in the street formed a lane,
through which, with all eyes concentrated upon them, the party rode
onward to the tavern. The general aptitude that pervades the populace
of a small country town, to meddle with affairs not legitimately
concerning them, was increased on this oc- casion by the sudden return
of Mr. Langton, after pass- ing through the village. Many conjectures
were afloat respecting the cause of this retrograde movement; and, by
degrees, something like the truth, though much dis- torted, spread
generally among the crowd, -- communica- ted, probably, from Mr.
Langton's servants. Edward Walcott, incensed at the uncourteous
curiosity of which he, as well as his companions, was the object, felt
a fre- quent impulse, (though fortunately for himself, resisted,) to
make use of his riding switch in clearing a passage.
On arriving at the tavern, doctor Melmoth recounted to his friend
the little he knew beyond the bare fact of Ellen's disappearance. Had
Edward Walcott been call- ed to their conference, he might, by
disclosing the ad- venture of the angler, have thrown a portion of
light up- on the affair; but, since his first introduction, the cold
and stately merchant had honoured him with no sort of notice.
Edward, on his part, was not well pleased at the sud- den
appearance of Ellen's father, and was little inclined to co-operate in
any measures that he might adopt for her recovery. It was his wish to
pursue the chase on his own responsibility, and as his own wisdom
dictated; he chose to be an independent ally, rather than a subordi-
nate assistant. But, as a step preliminary to his proceed- ings of
every other kind, he found it absolutely necessa- ry, having journeyed
far and fasting, to call upon the landlord for a supply of food. The
viands that were set before him, were homely, but abundant; nor were
Ed- ward's griefs and perplexities so absorbing, as to over- come the
appetite of youth and health.
Doctor Melmoth, and Mr. Langton, after a short pri- vate
conversation, had summoned the landlord, in the hope of obtaining some
clue to the developement of the mystery. But no young lady, nor any
stranger answer- ing to the description the doctor had received from
Hugh Crombie (which was indeed a false one) had been seen to pass
through the village since day-break. Here, therefore, the friends were
entirely at a loss in what di- rection to continue the pursuit. The
village was the focus of several roads, diverging to widely distant
por- tions of the country; and which of these the fugitives had
taken, it was impossible to determine. One point, however, might be
considered certain, -- that the village was the first stage of their
flight; for it commanded the only outlet from the valley, except a
rugged path among the hills, utterly impassable by horse. In this
dilemma, expresses were sent by each of the different roads; and poor
Ellen's imprudence, the tale no wise decreasing as it rolled along,
became known to a wide extent of coun- try. Having thus done every
thing in his power to recover his daughter, the merchant exhibited a
composure which doctor Melmoth admired, but could not equal. His own
mind, however, was in a far more comfortable state, than when the
responsibility of the pursuit had rested upon himself.
Edward Walcott, in the meantime, had employed but a very few
moments in satisfying his hunger; after which his active intellect
alternately formed and relin- quished a thousand plans for the
recovery of Ellen. -- Fanshawe's observation, that her flight must
have com- menced after the subsiding of the storm, recurred to him.
On inquiry, he was informed that the violence of the rain had
continued, with a few momentary intermissions, till near day light.
The fugitives must, therefore, have passed through the village, long
after its inhabitants were abroad; and how, without the gift of
invisibility, they had contrived to elude notice, Edward could not
`Fifty years ago,' thought Edward, `my sweet Ellen would have been
deemed a witch, for this trackless jour- ney. Truly, I could wish I
were a wizard, that I might bestride a broom-stick, and follow her.'
While the young man, involved in these perplexing thoughts, looked
forth from the open window of the apartment, his attention was drawn
to an individual, ev- idently of a different, though not of a higher
class, than the countrymen among whom he stood. Edward now
recollected that he had noticed his rough, dark face, among the most
earnest of those who had watched the arrival of the party. He had then
taken him for one of the boatmen, of whom there were many in the
village, and who had much of a sailor-like dress and appearance. A
second, and more attentive observation, however, con- vinced Edward
that this man's life had not been spent upon fresh water; and had any
stronger evidence, than the nameless marks which the ocean impresses
upon its sons, been necessary, it would have been found in his mode
of locomotion. While Edward was observing him, he beat slowly up to
one of Mr. Langton's servants, who was standing near the door of the
inn. He seemed to question the man with affected carelessness; but
his countenance was dark and perplexed, when he turned to mingle
again with the crowd. Edward lost no time in ascertaining from the
servant the nature of his inquiries. They had related to the elopement
of Mr. Langton's daughter; which was, indeed, the prevailing, if not
the sole subject of conversation in the village.
The grounds for supposing that this man was in any way connected
with the angler, were, perhaps, very slight; yet, in the perplexity of
the whole affair, they induced Edward to resolve to get at the heart
of his mystery. To attain this end, he took the most direct method,
-- by applying to the man himself.
He had now retired apart from the throng and bustle of the
village, and was seated upon a condemned boat that was drawn up to rot
upon the banks of the river. His arms were folded, and his hat drawn
over his brows. The lower part of his face, which alone was visible,
evinced gloom and depression, as did also the deep sighs, which,
because he thought no one was near him, he did not attempt to
`Friend, I must speak with you,' said Edward Wal- cott, laying his
hand upon his shoulder, after contemplat- ing the man a moment,
He started at once from his abstraction and his seat, apparently
expecting violence, and prepared to resist it; but perceiving the
youthful and solitary intruder upon his privacy, he composed his
features with much quick- ness.
`What would you with me?' he asked.
`They tarry long, -- or you have kept a careless watch,' said
Edward, speaking at a venture.
For a moment there seemed a probability of obtaining such a reply
to this observation, as the youth had intend- ed to elicit. If any
trust could be put in the language of the stranger's countenance, a
set of words, different from those to which he subsequently gave
utterance, had risen to his lips. But he seemed naturally slow of
speech; and this defect was now, as is frequently the case,
advantageous, in giving him space for reflec- tion.
`Look you, youngster; -- crack no jokes on me,' he at length said,
contemptuously. `Away! -- back whence you came, or -- ' and he
slightly waved a small rattan, that he held in his right hand.
Edward's eyes sparkled, and his color rose. `You must change this
tone, fellow, and that speedily,' he ob- served. `I order you to lower
your hand, and answer the questions that I shall put to you.'
The man gazed dubiously at him; but finally adopted a more
conciliatory mode of speech
`Well, master, and what is your business with me?' he inquired. `I
am a boatman out of employ. Any com- mands in my line?'
`Pshaw! I know you, my good friend, and you can- not deceive me,'
replied Edward Walcott. `We are private here,' he continued, looking
around. `I have no desire or intention to do you harm; and, if you act
according to my directions, you shall have no cause to repent it.'
`And what if I refuse to put myself under your orders?' inquired
the man. `You are but a young captain, for such an old hulk as mine.'
`The ill consequences of a refusal would all be on your own side,'
replied Edward. `I shall, in that case, deliver you up to justice; if
I have not the means of cap- turing you myself,' he continued,
observing the sea- man's eye to wander rather scornfully over his
youthful and slender figure, `there are hundreds within call whom it
will be in vain to resist. Besides, it requires little strength to use
this,' he added, laying his hand on a pistol.
`If that were all, I could suit you there, my lad,' mut- tered the
stranger. He continued aloud, `well, what is your will with me? D -- d
ungenteel treatment, this! -- But put your questions; and to oblige
you, I may an- swer them; -- if so be that I know any thing of the
`You will do wisely,' observed the young man. `And now to
business. What reason have you to suppose that the persons for whom
you watch are not already be- yond the village?'
The seaman paused long before he answered, and gazed earnestly at
Edward, apparently endeavoring to ascertain from his countenance, the
amount of his know- ledge. This he probably overrated, but,
nevertheless, hazarded a falsehood.
`I doubt not they passed before midnight,' he said. `I warrant you
they are many a league towards the sea- coast, ere this.'
`You have kept watch, then, since midnight?' asked Edward.
`Ay, that have I. And a dark and rough one it was,' answered the
`And you are certain that if they passed at all, it must have been
before that hour?'
`I kept my walk across the road, till the village was all astir,'
said the seaman. `They could not have miss- ed me. So, you see, your
best way is to give chase; for they have a long start of you, and you
have no time to lose.'
`Your information is sufficient, my good friend,' said Edward,
with a smile. `I have reason to know that they did not commence their
flight before midnight. You have made it evident that they have not
passed since. Ergo, they have not passed at all. An indis- putable
syllogism. And now will I retrace my foot- steps.'
`Stay, young man,' said the stranger, placing himself full in
Edward's way, as he was about to hasten to the inn -- ` you have drawn
me in to betray my comrade; but before you leave this place, you must
answer a question or two of mine. Do you mean to take the law with
you? -- or will you right your wrongs, if you have any, with your own
`It is my intention to take the latter method. But if I choose the
former, what then?' demanded Edward.
`Nay, nothing; -- only, you or I might not have gone hence alive,'
replied the stranger. `But as you say he shall have fair play -- '
`On my word, friend,' interrupted the young man. `I fear your
intelligence has come too late to do either good or harm. Look towards
the inn; my companions are getting to horse, and my life on it, they
know whither to ride.'
So saying, he hastened away, followed by the stranger. It was
indeed evident that news, of some kind or other, had reached the
village. The people were gathered in groups, conversing eagerly; and
the pale cheeks, up- lifted eye-brows, and outspread hands of some of
the fe- male sex, filled Edward's mind with undefined, but intol-
erable apprehensions. He forced his way to doctor Melmoth, who had
just mounted, and seizing his bridle, peremptorily demanded if he knew
aught of Ellen Lang- ton.
"Full many a miserable year hath past --
She knows him as one dead, -- or worse than dead;
And many a change her varied life hath known,
But her heart none."
Since her interview with the angler, which was inter- rupted by
the appearance of Fanshawe, Ellen Lang- ton's hitherto calm and
peaceful mind, had been in a state of insufferable doubt and dismay.
She was imper- atively called upon -- at least, she so conceived, to
break through the rules which nature and education impose up- on her
sex, to quit the protection of those whose desire for her welfare was
true and strong, -- and to trust her- self, for what purpose she
scarcely knew, to a stranger, from whom the instinctive purity of her
mind would in- voluntarily have shrunk, under whatever circumstances
she had met him. The letter which she had received from the hands of
the angler, had seemed to her inexpe- rience, to prove beyond a doubt,
that the bearer was the friend of her father, and authorized by him,
if her duty and affection were stronger than her fears, to guide her
to his retreat. The letter spoke vaguely of losses and misfortunes,
and of a necessity for concealment on her father's part, and secrecy
on her's; and to the credit of Ellen's not very romantic
understanding, it must be ac- knowledged, that the mystery of the plot
had nearly pre- vented its success. She did not, indeed, doubt that
the letter was from her father's hand; for every line and stroke, and
even many of its phrases, were familiar to her. Her apprehension was,
that his misfortunes, of what nature soever they were, had affected
his intellect, and that, under such an influence, he had commanded
her to take a step, which nothing less than such a com- mand could
justify. Ellen did not, however, remain long in this opinion; for when
she re-perused the letter, and considered the firm, regular
characters, and the style -- calm and cold, even in requesting such a
sacri- fice -- she felt that there was nothing like insanity here. In
fine, she came gradually to the belief, that there were strong
reasons, though incomprehensible by her, for the secrecy that her
father had enjoined.
Having arrived at this conviction, her decision lay plain before
her. Her affection for Mr. Langton was not, indeed -- nor was it
possible -- so strong, as that she would have felt for a parent who
had watched over her from her infancy. Neither was the conception, she
had unavoidably formed of his character, such as to prom- ise, that
in him she would find an equivalent for all she must sacrifice. On the
contrary, her gentle nature and loving heart, which otherwise would
have rejoiced in a new object of affection, now shrank with something
like dread from the idea of meeting her father, -- stately, cold, and
stern, as she could not but imagine him. A sense of duty was,
therefore, Ellen's only support, in resolving to tread the dark path
that lay before her.
Had there been any person of her own sex, in whom Ellen felt
confidence, there is little doubt that she would so far have disobeyed
her father's letter, as to communi- cate its contents, and take
counsel as to her proceedings. But Mrs. Melmoth was the only female --
excepting, in- deed, the maid servant -- to whom it was possible to
make the communication; and though Ellen at first thought of such a
step, her timidity and her knowledge of the lady's character, did not
permit her to venture up- on it. She next reviewed her acquaintances
of the oth- er sex; and doctor Melmoth first presented himself, as,
in every respect but one, an unexceptionable confidant. But the
single exception was equivalent to many. The maiden, with the highest
opinion of the doctor's learning and talents, had sufficient
penetration to know, that in the ways of the world, she was herself
the better skilled of the two. For a moment she thought of Edward Wal-
cott; but he was light and wild, and -- which her delica- cy made an
insurmountable objection -- there was an un- told love between them.
Her thoughts finally centered on Fanshawe. In his judgment, young and
inexperienced though he was, she would have placed a firm trust, and
his zeal, from whatever cause it arose, she could not doubt.
If, in the short time allowed her for reflection, an op- portunity
had occurred for consulting him, she would, in all probability, have
taken advantage of it. But the terms on which they had parted, the
preceding evening, had afforded him no reason to hope for her
confidence; and he felt that there were others who had a better right
to it than himself. He did not, therefore, throw himself in her way,
and poor Ellen was consequently left without an adviser.
The determination that resulted from her own unas- sisted wisdom,
has been seen. When discovered by doc- tor Melmoth at Hugh Crombie's
inn, she was wholly prepared for flight, and but for the intervention
of the storm, would, ere then, have been far away.
The firmness of resolve, that had impelled a timid maiden upon
such a step, was not likely to be broken by one defeat; and Ellen,
accordingly, confident that the stranger would make a second attempt,
determined that no effort on her part should be wanting to its
success. On reaching her chamber, therefore, instead of retiring to
rest (of which, from her sleepless thoughts of the pre- ceding night,
she stood greatly in need,) she sat watch- ing for the abatement of
the storm. Her meditations were now calmer, than at any time since her
first meet- ing with the angler. She felt as if her fate was decided.
The stain had fallen upon her reputation, -- she was no longer the
same pure being, in the opinion of those whose approbation she most
One obstacle to her flight -- and, to a woman's mind, a most
powerful one -- had thus been removed. Dark and intricate as was the
way, it was easier, now, to proceed, than to pause; and her desperate
and forlorn sit- uation gave her a strength, which, hitherto, she had
At every cessation in the torrent of rain that beat against the
house, Ellen flew to the window, expecting to see the stranger form
beneath it. But the clouds would again thicken, and the storm
re-commence, with its former violence; and she began to fear, that the
ap- proach of morning would compel her to meet the now dreaded face
of Doctor Melmoth. At length, however, a strong and steady wind,
supplying the place of the fitful gusts of the preceding part of the
night, broke and scattered the clouds from the broad expanse of the
sky. The moon commencing her late voyage not long before the sun, was
now visible, setting forth like a lonely ship from the dark line of
the horizon, and touch- ing at many a little silver cloud, the islands
of that ae- rial deep. Ellen felt that now the time was come; and
with a calmness, wonderful to herself, she prepared for her final
She had not long to wait, ere she saw, between the vacancies of
the trees, the angler, advancing along the shady avenue that led to
the principal entrance of Doc- tor Melmoth's dwelling. He had no need
to summon her, either by word or signal; for she had descended,
emerged from the door, and stood before him, while he was yet at some
distance from the house.
`You have watched well,' he observed, in a low, strange tone. `As
saith the scripture, many daughters have done virtuously, but thou
excellest them all.'
He took her arm, and they hastened down the avenue. Then leaving
Hugh Crombie's Inn on their right, they found its master, in a spot so
shaded that the moon-beams could not enlighten it. He held by the
bridle two horses, one of which the angler assisted Ellen to mount.
Then, turning to the landlord, he pressed a purse into his hand; but
Hugh drew back, and it fell to the ground.
`No; this would not have tempted me, nor will it reward me, he
said. If you have gold to spare, there are some that need it more than
`I understand you, mine host. I shall take thought for them, and
enough will remain for you and me,' re- plied his comrade. `I have
seen the day when such a purse would not have slipped between your
fingers. Well, be it so. And now, Hugh, my old friend, a shake of
your hand; for we are seeing our last of each other.'
`Pray Heaven, it be so; though I wish you no ill,' said the
landlord, giving his hand. He then seemed about to approach Ellen, who
had been unable to distin- guish the words of this brief conversation;
but his com- rade prevented him. `There is no time to lose,' he ob-
served. `The moon is growing pale already, and we should have been
many a mile beyond the valley, ere this.' He mounted, as he spoke, and
guiding Ellen's rein till they reached the road, they dashed away.
It was now that she felt herself completely in his power; and with
that consciousness, there came a sud- den change of feeling, and an
altered view of her con- duct. A thousand reasons forced themselves
upon her mind, seeming to prove that she had been deceived; while the
motives, so powerful with her but a moment before, had either vanished
from her memory, or lost all their efficacy. Her companion, who gazed
search- ingly into her face, where the moonlight, coming down between
the pines, allowed him to read its expression, probably discerned
somewhat of the state of her thoughts.
`Do you repent so soon?' he inquired. `We have a weary way before
us. Faint not ere we have well entered upon it.'
`I have left dear friends behind me, and am going I know not
whither,' replied Ellen tremblingly.
`You have a faithful guide,' he observed; turning away his head,
and speaking in the tone of one who endeavours to smother a laugh.
Ellen had no heart to continue the conversation; and they rode on
in silence, and through a wild and gloomy scene. The wind roared
heavily through the forest, and the trees shed their rain drops upon
the travellers. The road, at all times rough, was now broken into deep
gul- lies, through which streams went murmuring down, to mingle with
the river. The pale moonlight combined with the grey of the morning to
give a ghastly and un- substantial appearance to every object.
The difficulties of the road had been so much increas- ed by the
storm, that the purple eastern clouds gave notice of the near approach
of the sun, just as the travel- lers reached the little lonesome
cottage which Ellen remembered to have visited several months before.
On arriving opposite to it, her companion checked his horse, and
gazed with a wild earnestness at the wretched habi- tation. Then,
stifling a groan that would not altogether be repressed, he was about
to pass on. But, at that moment, the cottage door opened, and a woman,
whose sour, unpleasant countenance Ellen recognised, came hastily
forth. She seemed not to heed the travellers; but the angler, his
voice thrilling and quivering with indescribable emotion, addressed
`Woman, whither do you go?' he inquired.
She started; but, after a momentary pause, replied, `There is one
within at the point of death. She strug- gles fearfully, and I cannot
endure to watch alone by her bedside. If you are christians, come in
Ellen's companion leaped hastily from his horse, assisted her also
to dismount, and followed the woman into the cottage, having first
thrown the bridles of the horses carelessly over the branch of a tree.
Ellen trembled at the awful scene she would be compelled to witness;
but, when death was so near at hand, it was more terrible to stand
alone in the dim morning light, than even to watch the parting of soul
and body. She therefore entered the cottage.
Her guide, his face muffled in his cloak, had taken his stand at a
distance from the death-bed, in a part of the room, which neither the
increasing day light nor the dim rays of a solitary lamp, had yet
enlightened. At Ellen's entrance, the dying woman lay still, and
appar- ently calm, except that a plaintive, half articulate sound
occasionally wandered through her lips.
`Hush! For mercy's sake, silence!' whispered the other woman to
the strangers. `There is good hope now, that she will die a peaceable
death; but, if she is disturbed, the boldest of us will not dare to
stand by her bed-side.'
The whisper, by which her sister endeavoured to preserve quiet,
perhaps reached the ears of the dying female; for she now raised
herself in bed, slowly, but with a strength superior to what her
situation promised. Her face was ghastly and wild, from long illness,
ap- proaching death, and disturbed intellect; and a disem- bodied
spirit could scarcely be a more fearful object, than one whose soul
was just struggling forth. Her sister, approaching with the soft and
stealing step ap- propriate to the chamber of sickness and death,
attempt- ed to replace the covering around her, and to compose her
again upon the pillow. `Lie down and sleep, sister,' she said; `and
when the day breaks, I will waken you. Methinks your breath comes
freer, already. A little more slumber, and tomorrow you will be well.'
`My illness is gone, I am well,' said the dying wo- man, gasping
for breath. `I wander where the fresh breeze comes sweetly over my
face, but a close and stifled air has choked my lungs.'
`Yet a little while and you will no longer draw your breath in
pain,' observed her sister, again replacing the bed-clothes, which she
continued to throw off.
`My husband is with me,' murmured the widow. `He walks by my side,
and speaks to me as in old times; but his words come faintly on my
ear; cheer me and comfort me, my husband; for there is a terror in
those dim, motionless eyes, and in that shadowy voice.'
As she spoke thus, she seemed to gaze upon some object that stood
by her bed-side, and the eyes of those who witnessed this scene could
not but follow the direc- tion of hers. They observed that the dying
woman's own shadow was marked upon the wall, receiving a tremulous
motion from the fitful rays of the lamp, and from her own convulsive
efforts. `My husband stands gazing on me,' she said, again; `but my
son, -- where is he? -- and as I ask, the father turns away his face.
Where is our son? For his sake I have longed to come to this land of
rest. For him I have sorrowed many years. Will he not comfort me now?'
At these words, the stranger made a few hasty steps towards the
bed; but, ere he reached it, he conquered the impulse that drew him
thither, and, shrouding his face more deeply in his cloak, returned to
his former position. The dying woman, in the meantime, had thrown
herself back upon the bed; and her sobbing and wailing, imaginary as
was their cause, were inexpressi- bly affecting.
`Take me back to earth,' she said; `for its griefs have followed
The stranger advanced, and, seizing the lamp, knelt down by the
bed-side, throwing the light full upon his pale and convulsed
`Mother, here is your son,' he exclaimed.
At that unforgotten voice, the darkness burst away at once from
her soul. She arose in bed, her eyes and her whole countenance beaming
with joy, and threw her arms about his neck. A multitude of words
seemed struggling for utterance; but they gave place to a low moaning
sound, and then to the silence of death. The one moment of happiness,
that recompensed years of sorrow, had been her last. Her son laid the
lifeless form upon the pillow, and gazed with fixed eyes on his
As he looked, the expression of enthusiastic joy, that parting
life had left upon the features, faded gradually away, and the
countenance, though no longer wild, assumed the sadness which it had
worn through a long course of grief and pain. On beholding this
natural consequence of death, the thought perhaps occurred to him,
that her soul, no longer dependant on the imperfect means of
intercourse possessed by mortals, had com- muned with his own, and
become acquainted with all its guilt and misery. He started from the
bed-side, and covered his face with his hands, as if to hide it from
those dead eyes.
Such a scene as has been described could not but have a powerful
effect upon any one, who retained aught of humanity; and the grief of
the son, whose natural feelings had been blunted, but not destroyed,
by an evil life, was much more violent than his outward demeanor
would have expressed. But his deep re- pentance, for the misery he had
brought upon his parent, did not produce in him a resolution to do
wrong no more. The sudden consciousness of accumulated guilt made him
desperate. He felt as if no one had thenceforth a claim to justice or
compassion at his hands, when his neglect and cruelty had poisoned his
mother's life, and hastened her death. Thus it was that the Devil
wrought with him to his own destruction, reversing the salutary
effect, which his mother would have died, exultingly, to produce upon
his mind. He now turned to Ellen Langton, with a demeanour singularly
calm and com- posed.
`We must resume our journey,' he said, in his usual tone of voice.
`The sun is on the point of rising, though but little light finds its
way into this hovel.'
Ellen's previous suspicions as to the character of her companion
had now become certainty, so far as to con- vince her that she was in
the power of a lawless and guilty man; though what fate he intended
for her, she was unable to conjecture. An open opposition to his
will, however, could not be ventured upon; especially as she
discovered, on looking round the apartment, that, with the exception
of the corpse, they were alone.
`Will you not attend your mother's funeral?' she asked, trembling,
and conscious that he would discover her fears.
`The dead must bury their dead,' he replied; `I have brought my
mother to her grave; -- and what can a son do more? This purse,
however, will serve to lay her in the earth, and leave something for
the old hag. Whith- er is she gone?' interrupted he, casting a glance
round the room in search of the old woman. `Nay, then, we must
speedily to horse. I know her of old.'
Thus saying, he threw the purse upon the table, and without
trusting himself to look again towards the dead, conducted Ellen out
of the cottage. The first rays of the sun at that moment gilded the
tallest trees of the forest.
On looking towards the spot where the horses had stood, Ellen
thought that Providence, in answer to her prayers, had taken care for
her deliverance. They were no longer there, a circumstance easily
accounted for, by the haste with which the bridles had been thrown
over the branch of the tree. Her companion, however, imputed it to
`The hag! She would sell her own flesh and blood by weight and
measure,' he muttered to himself. `This is some plot of hers, I know
He put his hand to his forehead, for a moment's space, seeming to
reflect on the course most advisable to be pursued. Ellen, perhaps
`Would it not be well to return?' she asked, timidly. `There is
now no hope of escaping; but I might yet reach home undiscovered.'
`Return!' repeated her guide, with a look and smile from which she
turned away her face. `Have you forgotten your father and his
misfortunes? No, no, sweet Ellen; it is too late for such thoughts as
He took her hand, and led her towards the forest, in the rear of
the cottage. She would fain have resisted; but they were all alone,
and the attempt must have been both fruitless and dangerous. She
therefore trod with him a path, so devious, so faintly traced, and so
overgrown with bushes and young trees, that only a most accurate
acquaintance in his early days could have enabled her guide to retain
it. To him, however, it seemed so per- fectly familiar, that he was
not once compelled to pause, though the numerous windings soon
deprived Ellen of all knowledge of the situation of the cottage. They
descended a steep hill, and proceeding parallel to the river -- as
Ellen judged by its rushing sound -- at length found themselves at
what proved to be the termination of their walk.
Ellen now recollected a remark of Edward Walcott's, respecting the
wild and rude scenery, through which the river here kept its way; and,
in less agitating circum- stances, her pleasure and admiration would
have been great. They stood beneath a precipice, so high that the
loftiest pine tops (and many of them seemed to soar to Heaven)
scarcely surmounted it. This line of rock has a considerable extent,
at unequal heights and with many interruptions, along the course of
the river, and it seems probable, that, at some former period, it was
the boundary of the waters, though they are now confined within far
less ambitious limits. The inferior portion of the crag, beneath which
Ellen and her guide were standing, varies so far from the
perpendicular as not to be inaccessible by a careful footstep; but
only one per- son has been known to attempt the ascent of the superi-
or half, and only one the descent, yet steep as is the height, trees
and bushes of various kinds have clung to the rock, wherever their
roots could gain the slightest hold, -- thus seeming to prefer the
scanty and difficult nourishment of the cliff, to a more luxurious
life in the rich interval that extends from its base to the river.
But, whether or no these hardy vegetables have volun- tarily chosen
their rude resting place, the cliff is indebt- ed to them for much of
the beauty that tempers its sublimity. When the eye is pained and
wearied by the bold nakedness of the rock, it rests with pleasure on
the cheerful foliage of the birch, or upon the darker green of the
funereal fire. Just at the termination of the ac- cessible portion of
the crag, these trees are so numerous, and their foliage so dense,
that they completely shroud from view a considerable excavation,
formed, probably, hundreds of years since, by the fall of a portion of
the rock. The detached fragment still lies at a little distance from
the base, grey and moss-grown, but cor- responding, in its general
outline, to the cavity from which it was rent.
But the most singular and beautiful object in all this scene, is a
tiny fount of chrystal water, that gushes forth from the high, smooth
forehead of the cliff. Its perpen- dicular descent is of many feet;
after which it finds its way, with a sweet, diminutive murmur, to the
It is not easy to conceive, whence the barren rock procures even
the small supply of water, that is neces- sary to the existence of
this stream; it is as unaccountable, as the gush of gentle feeling
which sometimes proceeds from the hardest heart; but there it
continues to flow and fall, undiminished and unincreased. The stream
is so slender, that the gentlest breeze suffices to disturb its
descent, and to scatter its pure sweet waters over the face of the
cliff. But, in that deep forest, there is sel- dom a breath of wind:
so that, plashing continually up- en one spot, the fount has worn its
own little channel of white sand, by which it finds its way to the
river. Alas, that the Naiades have lost their old authority; for what
a Deity of tiny loveliness must once have presided here!
Ellen's companion paused not to gaze either upon the loveliness or
the sublimity of this scene, but assist- ing her where it was
requisite, began the steep and difficult ascent of the lower part of
the cliff. The maiden's ingenuity in vain endeavoured to assign rea-
sons for this movement; but when they reached the tuft of trees,
which, as has been noticed, grew at the ultimate point where mortal
footstep might safely tread, she perceived through their thick
branches the recess in the rock. Here they entered; and her guide
point- ed to a mossy seat, in the formation of which, to judge from
its regularity, art had probably a share.
`Here you may remain in safety,' he observed, `till I obtain the
means of proceeding, In this spot you need fear no intruder; but it
will be dangerous to venture beyond its bounds.'
The meaning glance that accompanied these words, intimated to poor
Ellen, that, in warning her against danger, he alluded to the
vengeance with which he would visit any attempt to escape. To leave
her thus alone, trusting to the influence of such a threat, was a
bold, yet a necessary and by no means a hopeless measure. On Ellen,
it produced the desired effect; and she sat in the cave as motionless,
for a time, as if she had her- self been a part of the rock. In other
circumstances, this shady recess would have been a delightful retreat,
during the sultry warmth of a summer's day. The dewy coolness of the
rock kept the air always fresh, and the sunbeams never thrust
themselves so as to dissipate the mellow twilight through the green
trees with which the chamber was curtained. Ellen's sleeplessness and
agi- tation, for many preceding hours, had perhaps dead- ened her
feelings; for she now felt a sort of indifference creeping upon her,
an inability to realize the evils of her situation, at the same time
that she was perfectly aware of them all. This torpor of mind
increased, till her eye- lids began to grow heavy, and the cave and
trees to swim before her sight. In a few moments more, she would
probably have been in dreamless slumber; but, rousing herself by a
strong effort, she looked round the narrow limits of the cave, in
search of objects to excite her worn-out mind.
She now perceived, wherever the smooth rock afford- ed place for
them, the initials, or the full length names, of former visitants of
the cave. What wanderer on mountain-tops, or in deep solitudes, has
not felt the in- fluence of these records of humanity, telling him,
when such a conviction is soothing to his heart, that he is not alone
in the world? It was singular, that, when her own mysterious situation
had almost lost its power to engage her thoughts, Ellen perused these
barren memo- rials with a certain degree of interest. She went on
repeating them aloud, and starting at the sound of her own voice,
till at length, as one name passed through her lips, she paused, and
then, leaning her forehead against the letters, burst into tears. It
was the name of Edward Walcott; and it struck upon her heart,
arousing her to a full sense of her present misfortunes and dangers,
and, more painful still, of her past happi- ness. Her tears had,
however, a soothing, and at the same time a strengthening effect upon
her mind; for, when their gush was over, she raised her head and began
to meditate on the means of escape. She wondered at the species of
fascination that had kept her, as if chained to the rock, so long,
when there was, in reality, nothing to bar her path-way. She
determined, late as it was, to attempt her own deliverance; and for
that purpose began slowly and cautiously to emerge from the cave.
Peeping out from among the trees, she looked and listened with
most painful anxiety, to discover if any living thing were in that
seeming solitude, or if any sound disturbed the heavy stillness. But
she saw only nature, in her wildest forms, and heard only the plash
and murmur (almost inaudible, because continual) of the little
waterfall, and the quick, short throbbing of her own heart, against
which she pressed her hand, as if to hush it. Gathering courage,
therefore, she began to descend; and, starting often at the loose
stones that even her light footstep displaced and sent rattling down,
she at length reached the base of the crag in safety. She then made a
few steps in the direction, as nearly as she could judge, by which she
arrived at the spot; but paused, with a sudden revulsion of the blood
to her heart, as her guide emerged from behind a projecting part of
the rock. He approached her deliberately, an ironical smile writhing
his features into a most disagreea- ble expression, while in his eyes
there was something that seemed a wild, fierce joy. By a species of
sophis- try of which oppressors often make use, he had brought
himself to believe that he was now the injured one, and that Ellen,
by her distrust of him, had fairly subjected herself to whatever evil
it consisted with his will and power to inflict upon her. Her only
restraining influ- ence over him, the consciousness in his own mind
that he possessed her confidence, was now done away. Ellen, as well
as her enemy, felt that this was the case. She knew not what to dread;
but she was well aware that danger was at hand, and that, in the deep
wilder- ness, there was none to help her, except that Being, with
whose inscrutable purposes it might consist, to allow the wicked to
triumph for a season, and the inno- cent to be brought low.
`Are you so soon weary of this quiet retreat?' demand- ed her
guide, continuing to wear the same sneering smile. `Or has your
anxiety for your father induced you to set forth alone, in quest of
the afflicted old man?'
`Oh, if I were but with him!' exclaimed Ellen. `But this place is
lonely and fearful, and I cannot endure to remain here.'
`Lonely, is it, sweet Ellen?' he rejoined, `am I not with you?
Yes, it is lonely -- lonely as guilt could wish. Cry aloud, Ellen, and
spare not. Shriek, and see if there be any among these rocks and woods
to hearken to you!'
`There is -- there is one,' exclaimed Ellen, shudder- ing and
affrighted at the fearful meaning of his counte- nance. `He is here --
He is there.' And she pointed to heaven.
`It may be so, dearest,' he replied. `But if there be an ear that
hears, and an eye that sees all the evil of the earth, yet the arm is
slow to avenge. Else why do I stand before you, a living man?'
`His vengeance may be delayed for a time, but not forever,' she
answered, gathering a desperate courage from the extremity of her
`You say true, lovely Ellen; and I have done enough, ere now, to
insure its heaviest weight. There is a pass, when evil deeds can add
nothing to guilt, nor good ones take anything from it.'
`Think of your mother, -- of her sorrow through life, and perhaps
even after death,' Ellen began to say. But as she spoke these words,
the expression of his face was changed, becoming suddenly so dark and
fiend-like, that she clasped her hands and fell on her knees before
`I have thought of my mother,' he replied, speaking very low, and
putting his face close to hers. `I re- member the neglect -- the wrong
-- the lingering and miser- able death, that she received at my hands.
By what claim can either man or woman henceforth expect mer- cy from
me? If God will help you, be it so; but by those words you have turned
my heart to stone.'
At this period of their conversation, when Ellen's peril seemed
most imminent, the attention of both was attracted by a fragment of
rock, which, falling from the summit of the crag, struck very near
them. Ellen started from her knees, and, with her false guide, gazed
eagerly upward; he in the fear of interruption, she in the hope of
At length, he cries, behold the fated spring!
Yon rugged cliff conceals the fountain blest,
Dark rocks it's chrystal source o'ershadowing.
The tale now returns to Fanshawe, who, as will be recollected,
after being overtaken by Edward Walcott, was left with little apparent
prospect of aiding in the deliverance of Ellen Langton.
It would be difficult to analyze the feelings with which the
student pursued the chase, or to decide whether he was influenced and
animated by the same hopes of suc- cessful love, that cheered his
rival. That he was con- scious of such hopes, there is little reason
to suppose; for the most powerful minds are not always the best
acquainted with their own feelings. Had Fanshawe, moreover,
acknowledged to himself the possibility of gaining Ellen's affections,
his generosity would have induced him to refrain from her society,
before it was too late. He had read her character with accuracy, and
had seen how fit she was to love, and to be loved by a man who could
find his happiness in the common occupation of the world; and Fanshawe
never deceived himself so far, as to suppose that this would be the
case with him. Indeed, he often wondered at the passion, with which
Ellen's simple loveliness of mind and person had inspired him, and
which seemed to be founded on the principle of contrariety, rather
than of sympathy. It was the yearning of a soul, formed by Nature in a
peculiar mould, for communion with those to whom it bore a
resemblance, yet of whom it was not. But there was no reason to
suppose that Ellen, who differed from the multitude only as being
purer and better, would cast away her affections on the one, of all
who surrounded her least fitted to make her happy. Thus Fanshawe rea-
soned with himself, and of this he believed that he was convinced.
Yet, ever and anon, he found himself involved in a dream of bliss, of
which Ellen was to be the giver and the sharer. Then would he rouse
him- self, and press upon his mind the chilling consciousness, that
it was, and could be, but a dream. There was also another feeling,
apparently discordant with those which have been enumerated. It was a
longing for rest, -- for his old retirement, that came at intervals so
powerfully upon him, as he rode on, that his heart sickened of the
active exertion on which fate had thrust him.
After being overtaken by Edward Walcott, Fanshawe continued his
journey with as much speed as was attain- able by his wearied horse,
but at a pace infinitely too slow for his earnest thoughts. These had
carried him far away, leaving him only such a consciousness of his
present situation as to make diligent use of the spur, when a horse's
tread, at no great distance, struck upon his ear. He looked forward,
and behind; but, though a considerable extent of the narrow, rocky,
and grass grown road was visible, he was the only traveller there Yet
again he heard the sound, which, he now discover- ed, proceeded from
among the trees that lined the road- side. Alighting, he entered the
forest, with the inten- tion, if the steed proved to be disengaged and
superior to his own, of appropriating him to his own use. He soon
gained a view of the object he sought; but the animal rendered a
closer acquaintance unattainable, by immedi- ately taking to his
heels. Fanshawe had however made a most interesting discovery; for the
horse was accou- tred with a side-saddle; and who, but Ellen Langton,
could have been his rider? At this conclusion, though his perplexity
was thereby in no degree diminished, the student immediately arrived.
Returning to the road, and perceiving on the summit of the hill a
cottage, which he recognized as the one he had entered with Ellen and
Edward Walcott, he determined there to make inquiry respecting the
objects of his pursuit.
On reaching the door of the poverty-stricken dwelling, he saw that
it was not now so desolate of inmates as on his previous visit. In the
single inhabitable apartment were several elderly women, clad
evidently in their well-worn and well-saved Sunday clothes, and all
wear- ing a deep-grievous expression of countenance. Fan- shawe was
not long in deciding, that death was within the cottage, and that
these aged females were of the class who love the house of mourning,
because to them it is a house of feasting. It is a fact, disgusting
and lamentable, that the disposition which heaven for the best of
purposes has implanted in the female breast -- to watch by the sick
and comfort the afflicted, frequently becomes depraved into an odious
love of scenes of pain, and death and sorrow. Such women are like the
Gouls of the Arabian Tales, whose feasting was among tomb- stones,
and upon dead carcasses.
(It is sometimes, though less frequently, the case, that this
disposition to make a `joy of grief' extends to individuals of the
other sex. But in us it is even less excusable and more disgusting,
because it is our nature to shun the sick and afflicted; and, unless
restrained by principles other than we bring into the world with us,
men might follow the example of many animals in de- stroying the
infirm of their own species. Indeed, in- stances of this nature might
be adduced among savage nations.) Sometimes, however, from an original
lusus naturoe, or from the influence of circumstances, a man becomes
a haunter of death beds, -- a tormentor of afflict- ed hearts, -- and
a follower of funerals. Such an abomi- nation now appeared before
Fanshawe, and beckoned him into the cottage. He was considerably
beyond the middle age, rather corpulent, with a broad, fat, tallow
complexioned countenance. The student obeyed his silent call, and
entered the room, through the open door of which he had been gazing.
He now beheld, stretched out upon the bed, where she had so lately
laid in life, though dying, the yet un- coffined corpse of the aged
woman, whose death has been described. How frightful it seemed! --
that fixed countenance of ashy paleness, amid its decorations of
muslin and fine linen, -- as if a bride were decked for the marriage
chamber, -- as if death were a bridegroom, and the coffin a bridal
bed. Alas, that the vanity of dress should extend even to the grave!
The female, who, as being the near and only relative of the
deceased, was supposed to stand in need of com- fort, was surrounded
by five or six of her own sex. These continually poured into her ear
the stale, trite maxims, which, where consolation is actually
required, add torture insupportable to the wounded heart. Their pre-
sent object, however, conducted herself with all due de- corum,
holding her handkerchief to her tearless eyes, and answering with very
grievous groans to the words of her comforters. Who could have
imagined that there was joy in her heart, because, since her sister's
death, there was but one remaining obstacle between herself and the
sole property of that wretched cottage?
While Fanshawe stood silently observing this scene, a low,
monotonous voice was uttering some words in his ear, of the meaning of
which his mind did not immedi- ately take note. He turned, and saw
that the speaker was the person who had invited him to enter.
`What is your pleasure with me, Sir?' demanded the student.
`I made bold to ask,' replied the man, `whether you would choose
to partake of some creature comfort, be- fore joining in prayer with
the family and friends of our deceased sister?' As he spoke, he
pointed to a table, on which was a moderate sized stone jug, and two
or three broken glasses; for then, as now, there were few occasions
of joy or grief, on which ardent spirits were not considered
indispensable, to heighten the one, or to alleviate the other.
`I stand in no need of refreshment,' answered Fan- shawe; `and it
is not my intention to pray at present.'
`I pray your pardon, reverend sir,' rejoined the other; `but your
face is pale, and you look wearied. A drop from yonder vessel is
needful to recruit the outward man. And for the prayer, the sisters
will expect it, and their souls are longing for the outpouring of the
spirit. I was intending to open my own mouth, with such words as are
given to my poor ignorance, but' --
Fanshawe was here about to interrupt this address, which proceeded
on the supposition, arising from his black dress and thoughtful
countenance, that he was a clergyman. But one of the females now
approached him, and intimated that the sister of the deceased was
desirous of the benefit of his conversation. He would have returned a
negative to this request, but, looking towards the afflicted woman, he
saw her withdraw her handkerchief from her eyes, and cast a brief, but
pene- trating and most intelligent, glance upon him. He immediately
expressed his readiness to offer such conso- lation as might be in his
`And in the meantime,' observed the lay-preacher, `I will give the
sisters to expect a word of prayer and exhortation, either from you or
These words were lost upon the supposed clergyman, who was already
at the side of the mourner. The fe- males withdrew out of ear-shot, to
give place to a more legitimate comforter than themselves.
`What know you respecting my purpose?' inquired Fanshawe, bending
The woman gave a groan -- the usual result of all ef- forts at
consolation -- for the edification of the company; and then replied in
a whisper, which reached only the ear for which it was intended. `I
know whom you come to seek, -- I can direct you to them. Speak low,
for God's sake,' she continued, observing that Fanshawe was about to
utter an exclamation. She then resumed her groans, with greater zeal
`Where -- where are they?' asked the student, in a whisper which
all his efforts could scarcely keep below his breath. `I adjure you to
`And if I should, how am I like to be bettered by it?' inquired
the old woman, her speech still preceded and followed by a groan.
`Oh God! -- The `auri sacra fames!' thought Fan- shawe with a
sickening heart, looking at the motionless corpse upon the bed, and
then at the wretched being, whom the course of nature, in
comparatively a moment of time, would reduce to the same condition.
He whispered again, however, putting his purse into the hag's
hand. `Take this. Make your own terms when they are discovered. Only
tell me where I must seek them, -- and speedily, or it may be too
`I am a poor woman and am afflicted,' said she, tak- ing the
purse, unseen by any who were in the room. `It is little that worldly
goods can do for me, and not long can I enjoy them,' and here she was
delivered of a louder, and a more heartfelt groan, than ever. She
then continued, `Follow the path behind the cottage, that leads to
the river side. Walk along the foot of the rock, and search for them
near the water-spout; keep a slow pace till you are out of sight,' she
added, as the student started to his feet.
The guests of the cottage did not attempt to oppose Fanshawe's
progress, when they saw him take the path towards the forest,
imagining, probably, that he was re- tiring for the purpose of secret
prayer. But the old woman laughed behind the handkerchief with which
she veiled her face.
`Take heed to your steps, boy,' she muttered; `for they are
leading you whence you will not return. Death too, for the slayer. Be
Fanshawe, in the meanwhile, continued to discover, and, for
awhile, to retain, the narrow and winding path that led to the river
side. But it was originally no more than a track, by which the cattle
belonging to the cot- tage went down to their watering place; and by
these four-footed passengers it had long been deserted. The fern
bushes, therefore, had grown over it, and in several places, trees of
considerable size had shot up in the midst. These difficulties could
scarcely have been sur- mounted by the utmost caution; and as
Fanshawe's thoughts were too deeply fixed upon the end, to pay a due
regard to the means, he soon became desperately bewildered, both as to
the locality of the river, and of the cottage. Had he known, however,
in which direction to seek the latter, he would not probably have
turned back; not that he was infected by any chivalrous de- sire to
finish the adventure alone; but because he would expect little
assistance from those he had left there. -- Yet he could not but
wonder -- though he had not in his first eagerness taken notice of it
-- at the anxiety of the old woman that he should proceed singly, and
without the knowledge of her guests, on the search. He never- theless
continued to wander on, -- pausing often to listen for the rush of the
river, and then starting forward, with fresh rapidity, to rid himself
of the sting of his own thoughts, which became painfully intense, when
undis- turbed by bodily motion. His way was now frequently
interrupted by rocks, that thrust their huge grey heads from the
ground, compelling him to turn aside, and thus depriving him,
fortunately perhaps, of all remaining idea of the direction he had
intended to pursue.
Thus he went on -- his head turned back, and taking little heed to
his footsteps -- when, perceiving that he trod upon a smooth, level
rock, he looked forward, and found himself almost on the utmost verge
of a preci- pice.
After the throbbing of the heart that followed this nar- row
escape had subsided, he stood gazing down where the sun-beams slept so
pleasantly at the roots of the tall old trees, with whose highest tops
he was upon a level. Suddenly he seemed to hear voices -- one well
remem- bered voice -- ascending from beneath; and approaching to the
edge of the cliff, he saw at its base the two whom he sought.
He saw and interpreted Ellen's look and attitude of entreaty,
though the words, with which she sought to soften the ruthless heart
of her guide, became inaudible, ere they reached the height where
Fanshawe stood. He felt that Heaven had sent him thither, at the
moment of her utmost need, to be the preserver of all that was dear
to him, and he paused only to consider the mode in which her
deliverance was to be effected. Life he would have laid down willingly
-- exultingly; -- his only care was, that the sacrifice should not be
At length, when Ellen fell upon her knees, he lifted a small
fragment of rock, and threw it down the cliff. It struck so near the
pair, that it immediately drew the at- tention of both.
When the betrayer -- at the instant in which he had al- most
defied the power of the Omnipotent to bring help to Ellen -- became
aware of Fanshawe's presence, his hardihood failed him for a time, and
his knees actually tottered beneath him. There was something awful, to
his apprehension, in the slight form that stood so far above him,
like a being from another sphere, looking down upon his wickedness.
But his half superstitious dread endured only a moment's space; and
then, mus- tering the courage that in a thousand dangers had not
deserted him, he prepared to revenge the intrusion by which Fanshawe
had a second time interrupted his de signs.
`By heaven, I will cast him down at her feet!' he mut- tered
through his closed teeth. `There shall be no form nor likeness of man
left in him. Then let him rise up, if he is able, and defend her.'
Thus resolving, and overlooking all hazard, in his ea- ger hatred,
and desire for vengeance, he began a despe- rate attempt to ascend the
cliff. The space, which only had hitherto been deemed accessible, was
quickly past, and in a moment more he was half way up the precipice,
clinging to trees, shrubs, and projecting portions of the rock, and
escaping through hazards which seemed to menace inevitable
Fanshawe, as he watched his upward progress, deem- ed that every
step would be his last; but when he per- ceived that more than half,
and, apparently, the most dif- ficult part of the ascent was
surmounted, his opinion changed. His courage, however, did not fail
him, as the moment of need drew nigh. His spirits rose buoyantly, his
limbs seemed to grow firm and strong, and he stood on the edge of the
precipice, prepared for the death- struggle which would follow the
success of his enemy's attempt.
But that attempt was not successful. When within a few feet of the
summit, the adventurer grasped at a twig, too slenderly rooted to
sustain his weight. It gave way in his hand, and he fell backward down
the precipice. His head struck against the less perpendicular part of
the rock, whence the body rolled heavily down to the detached
fragment, of which mention has heretofore been made. There was no life
left in him. With all the passions of hell alive in his heart, he had
met the fate that he intended for Fanshawe.
The student paused not, then, to shudder at the sud- den and awful
overthrow of his enemy, for he saw that Ellen lay motionless at the
foot of the cliff. She had, indeed, fainted, at the moment she became
aware of her deliverer's presence, -- and no stronger proof could she
have given of her firm reliance upon his protection.
Fanshawe was not deterred by the danger, of which he had just
received so fearful an evidence, from at- tempting to descend to her
assistance; and whether ow- ing to his advantage in lightness of
frame, or to su- perior caution, he arrived safely at the base of the
He lifted the motionless form of Ellen in his arms, and resting
her head against his shoulder, gazed on her cheek of lily paleness,
with a joy -- a triumph -- that rose almost to madness. It contained
no mixture of hope, it had no reference to the future, -- it was the
perfect bliss of a moment, -- an insulated point of happiness. He
bent over her and pressed a kiss -- the first, and he knew it would be
the last -- on her pale lips; then bear- ing her to the fountain, he
sprinkled its waters profuse- ly over her face, neck, and bosom. She
at length open- ed her eyes, slowly and heavily; but her mind was
evidently wandering, till Fanshawe spoke.
`Fear not, Ellen; you are safe,' he said.
At the sound of his voice, her arm, which was thrown over his
shoulder, involuntarily tightened its embrace, telling him, by that
mute motion, with how firm a trust she confided in him. But, as a
fuller sense of her sit- uation returned, she raised herself to her
feet, though still retaining the support of his arm. It was singular,
that, although her insensibility had commenced before the fall of her
guide, she turned away her eyes, as if instinctively, from the spot
where the mangled body lay; nor did she inquire of Fanshawe the manner
of her deliverance.
`Let us begone from this place,' she said, in faint, low accents,
and with an inward shudder.
They walked along the precipice, seeking some pas- sage by which
they might gain its summit, and at length arrived at that by which
Ellen and her guide had de- scended. Chance, -- for neither Ellen nor
Fanshawe could have discovered the path, -- led them, after but
little wandering, to the cottage. A messenger was sent forward to the
town, to inform Doctor Melmoth of the recovery of his ward; and the
intelligence thus received had interrupted Edward Walcott's
conversation with the seaman.
It would have been impossible, in the mangled re- mains of Ellen's
guide, to discover the son of the widow Butler, except from the
evidence of her sister, who be- came by his death the sole inheritrix
of the cottage. The history of this evil and unfortunate man must be
comprised within very narrow limits. A harsh father, and his own
untameable disposition, had driven him from home in his boyhood, and
chance had made him the temporary companion of Hugh Crombie. After two
years of wandering, when in a foreign country and in circumstances of
utmost need, he attracted the notice of Mr. Langton. The merchant took
his young country- man under his protection, afforded him advantages
of education, and, as his capacity was above mediocrity, gradually
trusted him in many affairs of importance. During this period, there
was no evidence of dishonesty on his part. On the contrary, he
manifested a zeal for Mr. Langton's interest, and a respect for his
person, that proved his strong sense of the benefits he had re-
ceived. But he unfortunately fell into certain youthful
indiscretions, which, if not entirely pardonable, might have been
palliated by many considerations, that would have occurred to a
merciful man. Mr. Langton's justice, however, was seldom tempered by
mercy; and on this occasion, he shut the door of repentance against
his erring protegéé, and left him in a situation not less desperate,
than that from which he had relieved him. The goodness and the
nobleness, of which his heart was not destitute, turned, from that
time, wholly to evil, and he became irrecoverably ruined and
irreclaimably de- praved. His wandering life had led him, shortly
before the period of this tale, to his native country. Here the
erroneous intelligence of Mr. Langton's death had reached him, and
suggested the scheme, which circum- stances seemed to render
practicable, but the fatal ter- mination of which has been related.
The body was buried where it had fallen, close by the huge, gray,
moss-grown fragment of rock, -- a monu- ment on which centuries can
work little change. The eighty years that have elapsed since the death
of the widow's son, have, however, been sufficient to obliter- ate an
inscription, which some one was at the pains to cut in the smooth
surface of the stone. Traces of letters are still discernible; but the
writer's many efforts could never discover a connected meaning. The
grave, also, is overgrown with fern bushes, and sunk to a level with
the surrounding soil. But the legend, though my ver- sion of it may
be forgotten, will long be traditionary in that lonely spot, and give
to the rock, and the precipice, and the fountain, an interest
thrilling to the bosom of the romantic wanderer.
Sitting then in shelter shady,
To observe and mark his mone
Suddenly I saw a Lady
Hasting to him all alone,
Clad in maiden-white and green:
Whom I judg'd the Forrest Queen. The wood-man's bear.
During several weeks succeeding her danger and de- liverance,
Ellen Langton was confined to her chamber, by illness, resulting from
the agitation she had endured. Her father embraced the earliest
opportunity to express his deep gratitude to Fanshawe for the
inestimable ser- vice he had rendered, and to intimate a desire to
requite it, to the utmost of his power. He had understood that the
student's circumstances were not prosperous, and, with the feeling of
one who was habituated to give and receive a `quid pro quo,' he would
have rejoiced to share his abundance with the deliverer of his
daughter. But Fanshawe's flushed brow and haughty eye, when he
perceived the thought that was stirring in Mr. Langton's mind,
sufficiently proved to the discerning merchant, that money was not in
the present instance a circulating medium. His penetration, in fact,
very soon informed him of the motives by which the young man had been
actuated, in risking his life for Ellen Langton; but he made no
allusion to the subject, -- concealing his inten- tions, if any he
had, in his own bosom.
During Ellen's illness, Edward Walcott had manifest- ed the
deepest anxiety respecting her; he had wander- ed around and within
the house, like a restless ghost, informing himself of the slightest
fluctuation in her health, and thereby graduating his happiness or
misery. He was at length informed that her convalescence had so far
progressed, that on the succeeding day she would venture below. From
that time, Edward's visits to Doctor Melmoth's mansion were
relinquished; -- his cheek grew pale, and his eye lost its merry
light, -- but he resolutely kept himself a banished man. Multifarious
were the conjectures to which this course of conduct gave rise; but
Ellen understood and approved his motives. The maiden must have been
far more blind than ever woman was, in such a matter, if the late
events had not convinced her of Fanshawe's devoted attach- ment; and
she saw that Edward Walcott, feeling the superior, the irresistible
strength of his rival's claim, had retired from the field. Fanshawe,
however, discov- ered no intention to pursue his advantage. He paid
her no voluntary visit, and even declined an invitation to tea, with
which Mrs. Melmoth, after extensive preparations, had favoured him. He
seemed to have resumed all the habits of seclusion, by which he was
distinguished pre- vious to his acquaintance with Ellen, -- except
that he still took his sunset walk, on the banks of the stream.
On one of these occasions, he staid his footsteps by the old
leafless oak, which had witnessed Ellen's first meeting with the
angler. Here he mused upon the circumstances that had resulted from
that event, and upon the rights and privileges -- for he was well
aware of them all -- which those circumstances had given him. Perhaps
the loveliness of the scene, and the recollections connected with it,
-- perhaps the warm and mellow sun- set, -- perhaps a temporary
weakness in himself, had softened his feelings, and shaken the
firmness of his resolution, to leave Ellen to be happy with his rival.
His strong affections rose up against his reason, whisper- ing that
bliss, -- on earth and in Heaven, through time and Eternity, -- might
yet be his lot with her. It is im- possible to conceive of the flood
of momentary joy, which the bare admission of such a possibility sent
through his frame; and just when the tide was highest in his heart, a
soft little hand was laid upon his own, and, starting, he beheld Ellen
at his side.
Her illness, since the commencement of which, Fan- shawe had not
seen her, had wrought a considerable, but not a disadvantageous change
in her appearance. She was paler and thinner, -- her countenance was
more intellectual -- more spiritual, -- and a spirit did the student
almost deem her, appearing so suddenly in that solitude. There was a
quick vibration of the delicate blood in her cheek, yet never
brightening to the glow of perfect health; a tear was glittering on
each of her long dark eye lashes; and there was a gentle tremor
through all her frame, which compelled her, for a little space, to
support herself against the oak. Fanshawe's first impulse was, to
address her in words of rapturous de- light; but he checked himself,
and attempted -- vainly, indeed -- to clothe his voice in tones of
calm courtesy. His remark merely expressed pleasure at her restoration
to health; and Ellen's low and indistinct reply had as little
relation to the feelings that agitated her.
`Yet I fear,' continued Fanshawe, recovering a degree of
composure, and desirous of assigning a motive (which he felt was not
the true one) for Ellen's agitation, -- `I fear that your walk has
extended too far for your strength.'
`It would have borne me farther, with such a motive,' she replied,
still trembling, -- `to express my gratitude to my preserver.'
`It was needless Ellen, it was needless; for the deed brought with
it its own reward,' exclaimed Fanshawe, with a vehemence that he could
not repress. `It was dangerous, for' --
Here he interrupted himself, and turned his face away.
`And wherefore was it dangerous?' inquired Ellen, laying her hand
gently on his arm; for he seemed about to leave her.
`Because you have a tender and generous heart, and I a weak one,'
`Not so,' answered she, with animation. `Yours is a heart, full of
strength and nobleness; and if it have a weakness' --
`You know well that it has, Ellen, -- one that has swallowed up
all its strength,' said Fanshawe. `Was it wise, then, to tempt it thus
-- when, if it yield, the re- sult must be your own misery?'
Ellen did not affect to misunderstand his meaning. On the
contrary, with a noble frankness, she answered to what was implied,
rather than expressed.
`Do me not this wrong,' she said, blushing, yet earnestly. `Can it
be misery -- will it not be happiness to form the tie that shall
connect you to the world? -- to be your guide -- a humble one, it is
true, but the one of your choice -- to the quiet paths, from which
your proud and lonely thoughts have estranged you? Oh! I know that
there will be happiness in such a lot, from these and a thousand other
The animation with which Ellen spoke, and, at the same time, a
sense of the singular course to which her gratitude had impelled her,
caused her beauty to grow brighter and more enchanting with every
word. And when, as she concluded, she extended her hand to Fan-
shawe, to refuse it was like turning from an angel, who would have
guided him to heaven. But, had he been capable of making the woman he
loved a sacrifice to her own generosity, that act would have rendered
him un- worthy of her. Yet the struggle was a severe one, ere he
`You have spoken generously and nobly, Ellen,' he said. `I have no
way to prove that I deserve your generosity, but by refusing to take
advantage of it. Even if your heart were yet untouched, -- if no
being, more happily constituted than myself, had made an im- pression
there, -- even then, I trust, a selfish passion would not be stronger
than my integrity. But now,' -- He would have proceeded, but the
firmness, which had hitherto sustained him, gave way. He turned aside
to hide the tears, which all the pride of his nature could not
restrain, and which, instead of relieving, added to his anguish. At
length he resumed. `No, Ellen, we must part now and forever. Your life
will be long and hap- py. Mine will be short, but not altogether
wretched, -- nor shorter than if we had never met. When you hear that
I am in my grave, do not imagine that you have hastened me thither.
Think that you scattered bright dreams around my path-way, -- an ideal
happiness, that you would have sacrificed your own to realize.'
He ceased; and Ellen felt that his determination was unalterable.
She could not speak; but taking his hand, she pressed it to her lips;
and they saw each other no more. Mr. Langton and his daughter, shortly
after, returned to the sea-port, which, for several suc- ceeding
years, was their residence.
After Ellen's departure, Fanshawe returned to his studies with the
same absorbing ardour, that had formerly characterized him. His face
was as seldom seen among the young and gay; -- the pure breeze and the
blessed sun-shine as seldom refreshed his pale and weary brow; and
his lamp burned as constantly from the first shade of evening, till
the grey morning light began to dim its beams. Nor did he, as weak men
will, treasure up his love in a hidden chamber of his breast. He was
in reality the thoughtful and earnest student that he seem- ed. He
had exerted the whole might of his spirit over itself, -- and he was a
conqueror. Perhaps, indeed, a summer breeze of sad and gentle thoughts
would some- times visit him; but, in these brief memories of his love,
he did not wish that it should be revived, or mourn over its event.
There were many who felt an interest in Fanshawe; but the
influence of none could prevail upon him to lay aside the habits,
mental and physical, by which he was bringing himself to the grave.
His passage thither was consequently rapid, -- terminating just as he
reached his twentieth year. His fellow students erected to his memory
a monument of rough-hewn granite, with a white marble slab, for the
inscription. This was borrowed from the grave of Nathanael Mather,
whom, in his almost insane eagerness for knowledge and in his early
death, Fanshawe resembled.
THE ASHES OF A HARD STUDENT AND A GOOD SCHOLAR.
Many tears were shed over his grave; but the thought- ful and the
wise, though turf never covered a nobler heart, could not lament that
it was so soon at rest. He left a world for which he was unfit; and we
trust, that, among the innumerable stars of heaven, there is one
where he has found happiness.
Of the other personages of this tale, -- Hugh Crombie, being
exposed to no strong temptations, lived and died an honest man.
Concerning Doctor Melmoth, it is un- necessary here to speak. The
reader, if he have any curiosity upon the subject, is referred to his
life, which, together with several sermons and other productions of
the Doctor, was published by his successor in the Presi- dency of
Harley College, about the year 1768.
It was not till four years after Fanshawe's death, that Edward
Walcott was united to Ellen Langton. Their future lives were
uncommonly happy. Ellen's gentle, almost imperceptible, but powerful
influence, drew her husband away from the passions and pursuits that
would have interfered with domestic felicity; and he never re-
gretted the worldly distinction of which she thus deprived him.
Theirs was a long life of calm and quiet bliss; -- and what matters
it, that, except in these pages, they have left no name behind them?